Greek - Garland Sarcophagus, about 250

Greek

Garland Sarcophagus, about 250

Possibly Phrygian marble, 44.1 x 122.6 x 55.2 cm (17 3/8 x 48 1/4 x 21 3/4 in.)

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Object details

Accession number

S5c3

Provenance

Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner's husband, John L. Gardner, Jr. (1837-1898), from the art dealers Antonio and Alessandro Jandolo, Rome with six other small antique sculptures (including museum no. S5s19) for a total of 5,000 francs on about 1 November 1897, through the art dealer Saturnino Innocenti.

Bibliography

Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 44. (as Roman, 2nd century [AD]; limestone)
Karl Lehmann-Hartleben. Dionysiac Sarcophagi in Baltimore (Baltimore, 1942), p. 69, figs. 23, 26. (as Roman, a style transitioning from Hadrianic to Antonine; the portrait bust as 3rd century, made later than the majority of the sarcophagus; Greek island marble)
F. Matz. Ein Römisches Meisterwerk: Der Jahreszeitensarkophag Badminton--New York, Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Neunzehntes Ergänzungsheft (Berlin, 1958), p. 51, fig. 26. (Eastern, Asia Minor)
Cornelius C. Vermeule III. "Roman Sarcophagi in America: A Short Inventory" in Philipp von Zabern (ed.). Festschrift für Friedrich Matz (Mainz, 1962), pp. 89-109, no. 1. (as about 250 AD)
R. Turcan. Les Sarcophages romains a représentations dionysiaques. Essai de chronologie et d'histoire religieuse (Paris, 1966), p. 69, no. 2.
Cornelius C. Vermeule III et al. Sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1977), pp. 46-47, no. 63. (as Greek imperial period, western Asia Minor type, about 250 AD; limestone)
Cornelius C. Vermeule III. "The Mosaic from Montebello near Rome: An Early Manifestation of the Seasons in Roman Imperial Art." Fenway Court (1981), p. 25, fig. 9. (as Greek imperial, western Asia Minor type, about 250 AD; limestone)
Janet Huskinson. Roman Children's Sarcophagi: Their Decoration and Its Social Significance (London, 1996), p. 22.
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), p. 2.


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Commentary


Inside the Courtyard is perhaps the most poignant piece of funeral sculpture in the collection: a child's sarcophagus of about AD 250, decorated with garlands, which many interpret as a nod to Isabella's own son, Jackie, who died in early childhood.  It stands at the very center of the Courtyard, at the foot of the Medusa mosaic.  By positioning this small sarcophagus, the Farnese Sarcophagus, and the Islamic tombstone in and around the garden of the Courtyard, Gardner echoed the nineteenth-century invention of landscaped cemeteries with elaborately carved monuments and mausoleums that invoke ancient architectural styles.