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Limestone sarcophagus: the Amathus sarcophagus

Period:
Archaic
Date:
2nd quarter of the 5th century B.C.
Culture:
Cypriot
Medium:
Hard limestone
Dimensions:
Overall: 62 x 93 1/8 x 38 1/2in. (157.5 x 236.6 x 97.8cm)
Classification:
Stone Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76
Accession Number:
74.51.2453
  • Description

    The Amathus sarcophagus is arguably the single most important object in the Cesnola Collection and unique among ancient Cypriot sculptures in its monumentality and in the preservation of its polychromy. The primary scenes on the long sides show a procession of chariots escorted by attendants on horseback and followed by foot soldiers. The main personage is probably the driver, who is standing under a parasol in the first chariot. His horses, as the others, are richly caparisoned; his chariot resembles the others also, except that the wheel has fewer spokes. The decoration of the short ends consists of a row of Astarte figures, nude except for their double necklaces and ear caps, and a row of Bes figures. The choice of these two deities, one Near Eastern, the other Egyptian, suggests the importance of procreation to the deceased. The figural panels are framed by a variety of vegetal ornaments, while the gabled lid once featured a pair of sphinxes and a palmette at each end.
    The sarcophagus probably belonged to one of the kings of Amathus. The procession scenes provide a glimpse into his world. The iconography as a whole, moreover, documents the thorough integration of Greek, Cypriot, and Oriental features in works of high quality at the middle fifth century B.C.

  • Provenance

    From the north necropolis of Amathus

    Until 1874, Cesnola Collection, excavated by General Cesnola in Amathus, Cyprus; acquired 1874, purchased from General Luigi Palma di Cesnola.

  • References

    Myres, John L. 1914. Handbook of the Cesnola Collection of Antiquities from Cyprus. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 1365.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1936[1934]. A Guide to the Collections, Part 1: Ancient and Oriental Art, 2nd edn. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1939. Guide to the Collections: Ancient and Oriental Art--Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek and Roman Far Eastern, Near Eastern Oriental Armor, Vol. 1, World's Fair Edition. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Bandinelli, Ranuccio Bianchi. 1958. Enciclopedia dell'Arte Antica, Classica e Orientale, Vol. 1. Rome: Instituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, pp. 300-2, 748-50, figs. 434, 945.

    Bandinelli, Ranuccio Bianchi. 1958. Enciclopedia dell'Arte Antica, Classica e Orientale, Vol. 2. Rome: Instituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, pp. 66, 636, figs. 112, 865.

    Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneleise, Brigitte Servais-Soyez, Fulvio Canciani, Giovannangelo Camporeale, Hans Peter Isler, Ingrid Krauskopf, Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, Marcel Le Glay, and Dr. Jean-Charles Balty. 1981–1999. Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, Vols. 1-8. Zürich: Artemis Verlag Zurich und Munchen.

    Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneleise, Brigitte Servais-Soyez, Fulvio Canciani, Giovannangelo Camporeale, Hans Peter Isler, Ingrid Krauskopf, Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, Marcel Le Glay, and Dr. Jean-Charles Balty. 1986. Atherion-Eros, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, Vol. 3. Zürich: Artemis Verlag Zurich und Munchen, Bes, no. 96; Bes (Cypri et in Phoenicia), no. 25.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1987. Greece and Rome. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 5, pp. 18-19, 21 .

    1994. Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide: Works of Art Selected by Philippe De Montebello. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Hermary, Antoine. 1995. "Une tête de Bès chypriote au musée de Cannes." Cahier du Centre d'Etudes Chypriotes, 23:

    Lightfoot, Christopher S. 2000. "The New Cypriot Galleries at The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Minerva, 11: no. 3: 20, fig. 9.

    Petit, Thierry. 2006. "“Oedip et le Chéubin”." Kernos: Revue internationale et pluridisciplinaire de religion grecque antique, 19: p. 326 n 47.

    Picón, Carlos A. 2007. Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece, Cyprus, Etruria, Rome New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 294, pp. 252-53, 464-65.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2012. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 67.

    Hermary, Antoine and Joan R. Mertens. 2013. The Cesnola Collection: Stone Sculpture. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 490, Myres 1365.

  • See also
242006

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