Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Marble strigilated vase with snake handles

2nd half of the 2nd century A.D.
H.: 17 5/16 in. (44 cm)
Stone Sculpture
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 2007
Accession Number:
2007.31a, b
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 168
The foot is restored.

This marble vase with handles in the form of entwined serpents is arguably the finest and best preserved example known today of a type of Roman vessel with a strigilated pattern carved on the body. These elongated S-shaped channels were a popular form of relief decoration on vases and sarcophagi, especially in the second half of the second century and the third century a.d. Two bearded snakes form the handle on either side of the vase. With their upper bodies coiled on the broad shoulder, they stretch their flat heads forward across the deep concavity of the neck to bite the projecting rim, setting up a play of spatial depth and light and dark effects. The motif of entwined serpents is appropriate for a funerary vase. Linked with the earth, snakes were associated with chthonian powers, and the Greeks and Romans regarded them as guardians of sacred places, houses, and tombs. In the absence of a funerary inscription, however, it is not possible to determine whether this vase was originally intended as an ash urn or for purely decorative use.
From at least 1964 until 1999, collection of Jean Feray, Paris; 2001, acquired by Alain Moatti from the estate of Feray; acquired January 8, 2007, purchased from Alain Moatti, Paris.
Picón, Carlos A. 2007. "New Acquisitions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Two Roman Sculptures." Apollo, : pp. 46-49, fig. 4.

Picón, Carlos A., Joan R. Mertens, Elizabeth J. Milleker, Christopher S. Lightfoot, and Seán Hemingway. 2007. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 2006–2007." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 65(2): p. 9.

Related Objects

Marble head of a Hellenistic ruler

Date: 1st–2nd century A.D. Medium: Marble Accession: 03.12.8b On view in:Gallery 160

Marble head of a Greek general

Date: 1st–2nd century A.D. Medium: Marble, Pentelic ? Accession: 24.97.32 On view in:Gallery 160

Marble portrait of the emperor Caracalla

Date: A.D. 212–217 Medium: Marble Accession: 40.11.1a On view in:Gallery 169

Marble portrait of the emperor Augustus

Date: ca. A.D. 14–37 Medium: Marble Accession: 07.286.115 On view in:Gallery 166

Marble head of an athlete

Date: ca. A.D. 138–192 Medium: Marble Accession: 11.210.2 On view in:Gallery 153