Marble funerary altar of Cominia Tyche

Flavian or Trajanic
ca. A.D. 90–100
H. 40 in. (101.6 cm)
Stone Sculpture
Credit Line:
Gift of Philip Hofer, 1938
Accession Number:
  • Description

    The woman whose portrait bust dominates the front of this funerary altar is identified by the Latin inscription below her. It reads: “To the spirits of the dead. Lucius Annius Festus [set this up] for the most saintly Cominia Tyche, his most chaste and loving wife, who lived 27 years, 11 months, and 28 days, and also for himself and for his descendants.” Cominia wears an elaborate hairstyle that reflects the high fashion adopted by ladies of the imperial court in the late Flavian period (A.D. 69–96). The inscription, on the other hand, emphasizes her piety and chastity, virtues that Roman matrons were traditionally expected to possess. The jug and patera (shallow bowl with handle) on the monument’s sides allude to the common practice of pouring offerings to the dead. The altar is known to have been in a house near the Forum in Rome in the sixteenth century and to have entered the collection of Cardinal Francesco Barberini during the seventeenth century.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: "To the spirits of the dead. To the most saintly Cominia Tyche, his most chaste and loving wife, [from] Lucius Annius Festus. [She] died at the age of twenty-seven years, eleven months, twenty-eight days. Also for himself and for his descendants."

  • Provenance

    Found in Rome (CIL 1886, no. 16054).

    From the late 1560s, collection of Angelo of Capranica, Rome; from 1677, collection of Cardinal Francesco Barberini, Rome (according to Joseph Maria Suarez, bishop of Vaison: Suaresius, Vatican, codex 9140 f. 120); by 1882, Palazzo Barberini, Rome; [Joseph Brummer]; Philip Hofer by 1938; acquired February 21, 1938, gift of Philip Hofer, Esq.

  • References

    Matz, Friedrich. 1882. Antike Bildwerke in Rom, mit Ausschluss der grösseren Sammlungen, Vol. 3. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, no. 3912, pp. 187-88 .

    Altmann, Walter. 1905. Die römischen Grabaltäre der Kaiserzeit. Berlin: Weidmann, no. 274, p. 213, fig. 171.

    Richter, Gisela M. A. 1941. Roman Portraits, Vol. 1. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Richter, Gisela M. A. 1948. Roman Portraits, 2nd edn. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Jucker, Hans and Urs Graf-Verlag. 1961. Das Bildnis im Blätterkelch: Geschichte und Bedeutung einer römischen Porträtform. Olten, no. G6, p. 21, pl. 3.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1987. Greece and Rome. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 90, pp. 120-21 .

    Boschung, Dietrich. 1987. Antike Grabaltäre aus den Nekropolen Roms. Bern: Stämpfli, no. 941, p. 75, 113, pl. 13.

    Kleiner, Diana and Susan B. Matheson. 1996. I Claudia: Women in Ancient Rome New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, p. 199, fig. 149.

    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. 424, pp. 365, 488.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History