Bronze cista (toiletries box)

Period: Late Classical

Date: ca. 350–325 B.C.

Culture: Praenestine

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: H. 23 in. (58.4 cm)

Classification: Bronzes

Credit Line: Gift of Courtland Field Bishop, 1922

Accession Number: 22.84.1a, b


This Praenestine cista, the largest in the Museum's collection, has an incised body and lid, three cast feet, and a handle, separately manufactured and attached. The handle consists of two winged male figures supporting the deceased body of a young nude male. Their detailed coiffures indicate the quality of these cast statuettes.
The body of the cista is divided into three decorative zones. The central scene portrays thirteen male characters conferring with each other. One, wearing a pleated cuirass, helmet, and shield, drives a chariot with four horses. Two other young men are dressed in a cuirass. The rest are naked, with a mantle draped around their arms and a helmet or short sword in their hands. Shields lean against some of their legs. The figures are rendered in various poses, and distinguished by different coiffures. Only one figure is seated, a bearded man with sandals and a mantle draped over his left shoulder. The scene represents a moment from the end of the Trojan War, preceding the sacrifice of the Trojan prisoners. The upper and lower bands of decorations, usually filled by vegetal and linear designs on Praenestine cistae, instead portray battle scenes. These figurative bands are very dynamic in comparison to the static atmosphere of the central representation, but the overall result is quite confusing. On the lower section, a horse is attacked by two griffins, a fantastic creature that appears frequently in Praenestine art.
A Praenestine cista in the Louvre, the so-called Cista Napoleon, probably came from the same workshop as this cista. Both have a thin band in relief enclosing the top and bottom sections of incised decorations, figurative scenes substituting the decorative bands, and similar iconography. The primary scene represented on the Cista Napoleon depicts the actual sacrifice of the Trojan prisoners.