Fragment of a Roman Marble Sarcophagus Depicting Apollo

SKU X.0145



100 AD to 200 AD


23″ (58.4cm) high x 14.75″ (37.5cm) wide





Gallery Location



This fragment was originally part of the front right corner of a Roman marble sarcophagus in which the remains of the deceased were interred. Sculpted in high relief, this piece depicts a stunning representation of the god of music and the arts, Apollo. Here, the deity is depicted nude, save for a mantle draped pinned on his right shoulder and draped over his left. The same cloth falls from behind over his right leg. In his left hand, he holds a kithara, his definitive attribute, that rests on his raised right knee. Two legends associate him with this instrument: one says he received the instrument from his father Zeus upon his birth and the other recounts how he acquired it from the god Hermes in exchange for cattle. Are we to presume from his stance that we have caught this god in the middle of a musical recital? Perhaps he is performing a requiem in honor of the deceased whose remains were once contained inside the completed sarcophagus.

His head is marvelously rendered with a sweetly smiling face that comforts and warms our hearts, proving that this god is benevolent. His curly hair has been parted down the center and arranged in a top-knot. A winged griffin stands in between his legs, facing left. Overhead, a portion of an oak tree is still visible. Judging from the presence of flora and fauna, we can assume that this was a pastoral symphony. On the short side of the sarcophagus, which is only partially preserved, there is a feline’s paw sculpted in shallow relief. Might this paw be the foot of yet another griffin? Although this is only a fragment of a much larger work, the depiction of Apollo is so marvelous that it functions perfectly by itself.

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