this piece has been cracked through the middle

Cinerary Box with Cover, 50–100 CE



The John R. Van Derlip Fundexpand_more  62.20a,b

This cinerary urn resembles a small building with pitched roof. The inscription attests that it contained the ashes of a man and a woman, possibly husband and wife, who were freed slaves:

To the divine shades of D(ecimus) Aemilius Chius and Hortensia Phebe

The ornamentation combines symbols related to death and resurrection. The garlands and fruit indicate regeneration and eternal life; the winged harpies on the front corners are fantastic creatures thought to carry off the souls of the dead; the eagles on the back corners represent man's spiritual ability to soar heavenwards. The central gorgon's head serves to ward off evil influence. The back is not decorated, as the urn would have been places in a niche inside a tomb.

This work was reassembled from fragments at an unknown date. Part of the right posterior corner of the base is a replacement. The gabled lid was probably carved in the 17th century. We would like to thank Prof. Alessandro Muscillo for this information.

Cinerary Box with Cover
Accession Number
Outside the Porta San Pancrazio (“fuori di San Pancrazio”), Rome (J. Séguier, BNF, Ms. Lat. 16932); Villa Doria Pamphilj, Rome (by 1666; BCS, Ms. K III.3, f. 502; Fabretti 1699, p. 600, n. 11). [Mathias Komor, New York, until 1962; sold to Mia] (1) (1_ Mathias Komor [1909-1984] through Mathias Komor Gallery, New York
Curator Approved

This record is from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator, so may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

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this piece has been cracked through the middle