Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Funerary relief

Date:
ca. 125–150
Geography:
Syria, probably from Palmyra
Medium:
Limestone
Dimensions:
17 1/8 x 13 7/8 x 7 5/8 in. (43.5 x 35.2 x 19.4 cm)
Classification:
Stone-Sculpture-Inscribed
Credit Line:
Purchase, 1901
Accession Number:
01.25.8
Not on view
This relief is a type of funerary monument characteristic of the prosperous caravan city of Palmyra during the first three centuries A.D. Reliefs with a representation of the deceased and a short identifying inscription were used to seal burial niches in elaborately decorated communal tombs; those with a half-length or bust format became prevalent sometime after A.D. 65.

Shown here is the upper body of a beardless man in high relief who faces directly toward the viewer, dressed in a Greek cloak known as a himation, worn over a chiton, or tunic, and wrapped around the right arm like a sling. The folds of the garment are carved as a series of regular, pattern-like ridges, without a realistic sense of weight and volume. He holds a small object in his left hand, probably a schedula (book roll) or a writing tablet. The background of the relief has been broken away on the right side, but was likely inscribed in Palmyrene Aramaic with the name and lineage of the deceased. His upper eyelids are modeled, and incised circles mark the iris of each eye. Above the ridge of the eyebrows, the forehead is creased with horizontal furrows, creating a stern and careworn expression. The gaze does not meet the viewer’s but extends far into the distance. Traces of red pigment remain on the man’s short hair, which is depicted as a mass of wavy locks that cover his head like a cap, ending above his protruding ears. Carved in soft local limestone, the relief has been broken laterally at the juncture between head and neck, and shows signs of damage and wear at the tip of the nose and on the right hand. The relief can be stylistically dated to around 125-150 A.D. because of the figure’s beardlessness and the use of pattern-like semicircular shapes among the folds of the himation.
Acquired by the Museum in 1901, purchased from Azeez Khayat, New York.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1904. "The Stone Sculptures of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriote Antiquities in Halls 14, 18 and 19." In Handbook No. 3. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 2052, p. 135.
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