The J. Paul Getty Museum

Front Panel of a Garland Sarcophagus

Object Details


Front Panel of a Garland Sarcophagus






Roman Empire (Place Created)


about A.D. 140–170


Light gray marble (Phrygian marble)

Object Number:



91.5 × 226 × 18.5 cm (36 × 89 × 7 5/16 in.)

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Object Description

On a broken section from the front panel of a Roman sarcophagus, Cupids hold up garlands of oak leaves while standing on hybrid sea monsters. Nikai, just visible at the broken edges, hold the far ends of the garlands. A Medusa head and two tragic masks fill the spaces above the garlands. Elaborate, detailed decoration including flying ribbons, acorns on the garlands, and birds eating clusters of grapes covers the surface of the sarcophagus.

Sarcophagi decorated with garlands were very popular in the Roman world; the majority of surviving Roman sarcophagi are carved in this style. With the shift from cremation to interment that took place in the 100s A.D., the garland motif that had decorated funerary altars was adopted for the decoration of sarcophagi.
A workshop of sculptors at Dokimeion in Phrygia in modern Turkey made this sarcophagus. Garland sarcophagi like this one were more elaborate than those made in the city of Rome, but they were very popular and widely exported.

after 1848/by 1872

William Lowther, 2nd earl of Lonsdale, English, 1787 - 1872 (Lowther Castle, Cumbria, England), by inheritance to his heirs, 1872.

1872 - 1876

Henry Lowther, 3rd Earl of Lonsdale, 1818 - 1876, by inheritance to his heirs, 1876.

1876 - 1882

St George Henry Lowther, 4th Earl of Lonsdale, 1855 - 1882, by inheritance to his heirs, 1882.

1882 - 1944

Hugh Cecil Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale, 1857 - 1944, by inheritance to his heirs, 1944.

1944 - 1953

Lancelot Edward Lowther, 6th Earl of Lonsdale, 1867 - 1953, by inheritance to his heirs, 1953.

1953 -1969

James Hugh William Lowther, 7th earl of Lonsdale, 1922 - 2006 [sold, Sotheby's, London, July 1, 1969, lot 137, to Fallani.]

1969 - 1972

Dr. Giorgio Fallani, 1921 - 1994 (Geneva, Switzerland), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972.

Classical Connections: The Enduring Influence of Greek and Roman Art (December 16, 2003 to November 9, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 2003 to November 9, 2008

Paoletti, Orazio. "Gorgones Romanae," Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae IV (1988), pp. 345-362, p. 351, no. 73.

Michaelis, Adolf Theodor Friedrich. Ancient Marbles in Great Britain (Cambridge: University Press, 1882), p. 494, no. 49.

Sotheby's, London. Sale cat., July 1, 1969, lot no. 137, ill.

Himmelmann, Nikolaus. "Der 'Sarkophag' aus Megiste," Abhandlungen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse 1970, no. 1, pp. 5-30, p. 19, referred to as lot 137 in Sotheby sale of July 1, 1969, and as no. 49 on p. 494 of Michaelis.

Cook, Brian F. "Two Medusa Head Friezes." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 1 (1974), pp. 33-36, pp. 34, 36; fig. 4.

Koch, Guntram. "Fragmente Kaiserzeitlicher Sarkophage in Goettingen," Archaeologischer Anzeiger 1974, pp. 291-308, p. 306, n. 61.

Schauenburg, Konrad. "Zu zwei Sarkophagplatten in J. Paul Getty Museum." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 2 (1975), pp. 61-70, pp. 63-70; fig. 8.

Monna, Dario and Patrizio Pensabene. Marmi dell'Asia Minore. Rome: 1977, fig. 52.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), p. 61.

Frel, Jiří. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum: A Checklist; Sculpture II: Greek Portraits and Varia (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, November 1979), p. 27, no. V46.

Koch, Guntram. "Ein Sarkophagfragment mit dem Kampf bei den Schiffen in Malibu." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 6/7 (1978-1979), pp. 103-110, p. 110.

Schauenburg, Konrad. "Portraets auf roemischen Sarkophagen." Eikones. Antike Kunst, suppl. 12 (1980), p. 153, n. 1.

Sichtermann, H. "Zu den Bildnissen im Blaetterkelch," Eikones. Antike Kunst, suppl. 12 (1980), pp. 168-172, p. 168, n. 3 (cited without inv. no.).

Koch, Guntram. "Stattroemische oder oestlich? Probleme einiger Kaiserzeitlicher Sarkophage in Rom," Bonner Jahrbuch 180 (1980), pp. 51-104, p. 98, n. 166.

Pensabene, Patrizio. "Nota sullo studio di lavorazione e la tipologia dei sarcofagi a ghirlande microasiatici esportati in occidente," Dialoghi di archeologia n.s. 3, 1 (1981), pp. 85-112, p. 101, fig. 20.

Hall, Alan and Marc Waelkens. "Two Dokimeian Sculptors in Iconium," Anatolian Studies 32 (1982), pp. 151-155, p. 154, pl. 28b.

Koch, Guntram and Helmut Sichtermann. Roemische Sarkophage (Munich: 1982), pp. 499 f.; 509, n. 125.

Waelkens, Marc. Dokimeion: Die Werkstatt der repraesentativen kleinasiatischen Sarkophage, pp. 20, no. 10; 135ff., s.v. "Malibu." pl. 2.1.

Koch, Guntram. "Oestliche Sarkophage in Rom," Bonner Jahrbuch 182 (1982), pp. 167-208, p. 192, group II, no. 9, fig. 28.

Index der antiken Kunst und Architektur: Denkmäler des griechisch-römischen Altertums in der Photosammlung des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts Rom...Begleitband: Register und Kommentar. (New York : K.G. Saur, 1988), fiche 2638, D2.

"Bulletin of recent publications." Revue des etudes grecques 101 (1988), p. 140.

Koch, Guntram, with Karol Wight. Roman Funerary Sculpture: Catalogue of the Collections (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1988), pp. 67-69, no. 23, ill., with additional bibliography.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), pp. 49, ill.