Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Fragmentary marble sarcophagus with scenes from the Oresteia

Period:
Antonine
Date:
mid-2nd century A.D.
Culture:
Roman
Medium:
Marble-Luni
Dimensions:
reconstructed: 31 5/8 × 26 × 57 in. (80.3 × 66 × 144.8 cm)
Classification:
Stone Sculpture
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1928
Accession Number:
28.57.8a–d
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 169
Enough remains to identify the figures on this sarcophagus with the Oresteia legend known especially from the Greek plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.
FRONT: Separate dramatic events from the cycle of plays were combined into one continuous scene. A complete sarcophagus in the Vatican Museum shows the entire relief as it was probably originally represented here. In the center, Orestes was represented killing his mother, Clytaemnestra, and her husband, Aegisthus, because his mother had murdered his father, King Agamemnon, on his return from the Trojan War. Immediately to the right, Furies, concealed behind a curtain, begin to attack Orestes for his crime of matricide. At the far right, he has taken refuge at the temple of Apollo at Delphi in order to be cleansed of his guilt, and he threatens the Furies who have followed him with his drawn sword. One exhausted Fury sleeps at his feet.
RIGHT SHORT SIDE: Electra, the sister of Orestes, together with another woman, mourning at the tomb of Agamemnon.
LEFT SHORT SIDE: The fragmentary left short side showed the recognition scene between Orestes and his sister Iphigenia, who had been sacrificed by King Agamemnon to appease the goddess Artemis at the outset of the Trojan War but had been spirited away by the goddess to Tauris on the Black Sea.
LID: The relief on the side of the 1id of this sarcophagus showed the entire story of Orestes and lphigenia at Tauris as recounted in a play by Euripides. At the far right, Orestes strides up the gangplank of a ship in which his sister awaits him with her attendant and a sailor.
Alexander, Christine. 1930–1931. "Unpublished Fragments of Roman Sarcophagi in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum Studies, 3: pp. 38-40, fig. 1.

Alexander, Christine. 1930. "Accessions and Notes: Fragments of Roman Sarcophagi." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 25 (12): pp. 282-3.

McCann, Anna Marguerite. 1978. Roman Sarcophagi in the Metropoltian Museum of Art. no. 7, pp. 21, 53-60, 7, figs. 55-57, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneliese, 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, Anneliese, 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. Elektra I, no. 31, Zürich: Artemis Verlag Zurich und Munchen.

Kossatz-Deissmann, Anneliese, Brigitte Servais-Soyez, Fulvio Canciani, Giovannangelo Camporeale, Hans Peter Isler, Ingrid Krauskopf, Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, Marcel Le Glay, and Dr. Jean-Charles Balty. 1990. Herakles-Kenchrias, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, Vol. 5. Iphigeneia, nos. 57, 68, Zürich: Artemis Verlag Zurich und Munchen.

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