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Formerly in Giardino Torrigiani, Florence.
ex Rothchild collection
Pair with New York, Metropolitan Museum, Muses and Sirens, no. 10.104, from the Ruffo Scilla Villa nera Florence.
Museum purchase, M. H. de Young Endowment Fund
Marble sarcophagi bearing elaborate figural compositions were expensive luxuries in ancient times. This Roman example contains imagery symbolic of both the agricultural seasons and Dionysiac ritual. The lively figures sculpted in high relief include youths holding plants and the bounty of the harvest. Standing winged figures (childlike erotes) are carved almost in the round; their cornucopias are free-standing, as are the wings on the two central figures supporting the roundel, which contains a portrait of a noble woman, the deceased.
Around the sarcophagus, small wingless figures ride and frolic with animals associated with Dionysus, the god of wine, vegetation, and resurrection, and engage in activities that take place in the various seasons. On coffins and other monuments of the late Roman period, figures representing the seasons were popular features, perhaps expressing the transitory and recurring phases of life and the inevitable passage of time.