Grave Stele For Helena

Object Details


Grave Stele For Helena






Roman Empire (Place created)


150 - 200




61 x 31.5 cm (24 x 12 3/8 in.)

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A Maltese dog in the architectural setting of a naiskos, or small shrine, decorates this Roman grave relief. The inscription on the relief reads, "To Helena, foster daughter, the incomparable and worthy soul."

Was the Helena commemorated by this sculpture a dog or a girl? The Romans made grave reliefs for animals, but these usually took a different form and their inscriptions specify that they were intended for an animal. On the other hand, funerary monuments for children often show the child with a favorite pet. In this instance, however, the pet is shown alone, which might be more appropriate if Helena was not a high-born Roman. The inscription appears to support this interpretation because the word alumnus, although here translated as "foster daughter," can also mean a slave raised in the house.

by 1749

Villa Sinibalda (Rome, Italy)

after 1848/by 1868 - 1872

William Lowther, second earl of Lonsdale, 1787-1872 (Lowther Castle, Cumbria, England), by inheritance to his heirs, 1872.


James Hugh William Lowther, seventh earl of Lonsdale, 1922-2006 [sold, Egyptian, Western Asiatic, Irish Bronze Age, Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Anglo-Saxon antiquities, ancient glass and jewellery, Islamic pottery and metalwork, Sotheby's, London, July 1, 1969, lot 135, to Royal Athena Galleries.]


Royal Athena Galleries (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1971.

I, Claudia: Women in Ancient Rome (September 6, 1996 to June 15, 1997)
  • Yale University Art Gallery, (New Haven), September 6 to December 1, 1996
  • San Antonio Museum of Art, (San Antonio), December 22, 1996 to March 2, 1997
  • North Carolina Museum of Art, (Raleigh), April 6 to June 15, 1997

Slater, Niall W. "Mourning Helena: Emotion and Identification in a Roman Grave Stela (71.AA.271)." Getty Research Journal 2 (2010), pp. 139-146

Maffei, Scipione. Museum veronense, hoc est, Antiquarum inscriptionum atque anaglyphorum collectio : cui Taurinensis adiungitur et Vindobonensis : accedunt monumenta id genus plurima nondum vulgata, et ubicumque collecta. Verona: Typis Seminarii, 1749 p. 276.4.

Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. (Berlin: 1862-) vol. VI (Rome), no. 19190.

Sotheby's, London. Sale cat., July 1, 1969. lot no. 135.

Vermeule, Cornelius, and Norman Neuerberg. Catalogue of the Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu: 1973. p. 38, no. 84, ill.

Frel, Jirí. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum. A Checklist. Sculpture II. Greek Portraits and Varia. Malibu: November 1979. p. 28, no. V48.

Boucher, Jean-Paul. "L'epitaphe d'Helene," The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, vol. 10 (1982), pp. 121-122. fig. 1. Wrongly cited as 78.AA.61.

Koch, Guntram. "Zum Grabrelief der Helena," The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 12 (1984), pp. 59-72. fig. 1.

Koch, Guntram, with Karol Wight. Roman Funerary Sculpture. Catalogue of the Collections. Malibu: 1988. pp. 85-87, no. 30, ill.

Dixon, Suzanne. The Roman Family. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. pl. 21. Without accession no.

Kleiner, Diana E. E., and Susan B. Matheson. I Claudia. Women in Ancient Rome (ex. cat.). p. 210, no. 167, ill.

von den Driesch, Angela and Joris Peters. Geschicte der Tiermedizin (Stuttgart, Schattauer, 2003) abb. 1-67.

Education Resources

Education Resource




Low-Relief Sculpture

Lesson in which students refer to a Roman gravestone, create a low-relief gravestone for a pet using foam carving medium, and write a poetic epitaph.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts


Two-Part Lesson