Roman, Central Europe, Imperial Period, ca. 2nd to 3rd century CE. A beautiful pair of large sarcophagus sections, hand-carved from pale yellow-white marble, depicting two youthful fisherman in low to high relief. The figures stand atop delineated legs with finely-detailed musculature in 3/4 view, and each holds a woven basket in his left hand and a fishing rod in his right. The fishermen wear simple wraps around their waists and smooth caps atop their curly coiffures to protect them from the sun, all the while holding large-eyed fish on the ends of their lines. Each panel has thick borders around three-quarters of the periphery with only the backs of the fishermen exposed. Sublime examples of Roman funerary artistry! Custom museum-quality display stands included. Size of largest (right-facing): 7" W x 19" H (17.8 cm x 48.3 cm); 22" H (55.9 cm) on included custom stand.
The fishermen depicted here give the viewer a sense of youthful whimsy and freedom as if they have not a care in the world. Their dynamic postures and simple presentation exude a sense of movement as if each man has just pulled his fish up from the flowing waters while maintaining his balance along the sandy shoreline. The adherence to realism in this artistic presentation allows the sculptor to create a scene which ignites the imagination with a sense of understanding and appreciation for even the simplest of tasks.
Roman sculptors were particularly skilled at capturing optical effects of light and shadow in order to attain greater realism and as time went on more impressionistic, abstract forms. This example, despite being a fragment, provides a window onto the style and technique of ancient Roman sculpture.
The word sarcophagus literally means "flesh-eater" in Greek. Sarcophagi were coffins used throughout the Roman Empire beginning in the second century CE when inhumation burials became more popular than cremation practices of the Republican and early Imperial periods. The rise in sarcophagi usage was inspired by earlier Etruscan and Greek models. This example came from a particularly luxurious sarcophagus as it was made from marble. Less elite examples were made from other stones, wood, and lead.
Provenance: private Davis collection, Houston, Texas, USA; ex-private El Paso, Texas, USA collection, acquired at Barakat Gallery, Beverly Hills, California, USA
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