The J. Paul Getty Museum

Sarcophagus and Lid; 19th Century Crouching Lion Supports

Object Details


Sarcophagus and Lid; 19th Century Crouching Lion Supports






Roman Empire (Place Created)

Vigna Casali (near Porta Capena), Sempronii mausoleum, Rome, Italy (Place Found)


A.D. 210–220



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Object Description

The inscription on the lid of this sarcophagus identifies its former occupant, Maconiana Severiana, as being from a senatorial family. "To the soul of the deceased. For Maconiana Severiana, the sweetest daughter, Marcus Sempronius Faustinianus, vir clarissimus [holding a senatorial rank], and Praecilia Severiana, clarissima femina [from a senatorial family], her parents [had this made]." Given the small size of the sarcophagus, Maconiana must have been a child or adolescent.

The front of the sarcophagus shows a Dionysiac revel, culminating in the discovery of the sleeping Ariadne, shown lying down on the right. Abandoned by the Greek hero Theseus, Ariadne awakened to a new life with Dionysos, the god of wine. The goat-legged Pan lifts the veil from her prone figure while satyrs, maenads, and a panther surround the drunken Dionysos.

The back of the sarcophagus shows another Dionysiac scene of winemaking carved in a simpler, flatter style. Panels with related figures flank the central inscription on the lid. For the Romans, Dionysos was associated with the hope of a better afterlife; thus many sarcophagi show the god and his followers. Two lions were added to the ensemble in the 19th century to support the sarcophagus.

Sculpted stone sarcophagi, which came into use in the 200s A.D., soon became symbols of wealth and status. Since Romans favored certain themes for sarcophagi, they were often bought ready-made and then customized by the addition of a portrait of the deceased. The blank face of Ariadne should have been carved as a portrait of Maconiana Severiana. Why it was left blank in this instance is not clear.

by 1871 - 1872

Found: Vigna Casali (near Porta Capena), Sempronii mausoleum, Rome, Italy (first recorded in Brizio 1873)

- 1888

Giuseppe Scalambrini (Rome, Italy) [sold, Collezione Scalambrini, public auction directed by Vincenzo Capobianchi, Rome, February 24, 1888, lot 608.]

by 1921 - still in 1929

on display in the Palazzo Lazzaroni (Via dei Lucchesi, Rome, Italy)

by 1965 - 1971

John Jacob Astor, first baron Astor of Hever, 1886 - 1971 (Hever Castle, Kent, England), by descent to his son, Gavin Astor, 1971.

1971 - 1983

Gavin Astor, second baron Astor of Hever, 1918 - 1984 (Hever Castle, Kent, England) [sold, Antiquities: The Property of The Lord Astor of Hever, July 11, 1983, lot 370, sold through Royal Athena Galleries to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1983.]

Beyond Beauty: Antiquities as Evidence (December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999

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