The Getty Villa Funerary and Decorative Art page contains 78 images, including a
few images of the Outer Peristyle and the Mosaic-Shell Fountain in the East Garden,
ancient Greek and Roman gravestones, grave monuments and sarcophagi, altars,
armor, amphorae, jewelry and other art objects from Greece, Rome and Etruria.

This page contains several images of objects which were returned to Italy after it had been
determined that they were illegally excavated and sold by dealers trafficking in looted art.

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Getty Villa Index

Ancient Sculptures and Statuettes      Funerary and Decorative Art        

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             Bronze Sculpture       Decorative Art                 


Outer Peristyle Reflecting Pool Getty Villa HS3542

The Outer Peristyle and Reflecting Pool at the Getty Villa, overlooking the ocean in Pacific Palisades, California. The 210 foot long pool is only 18 inches deep to avoid having to maintain a lifeguard around the clock. The Outer Peristyle and the Reflecting Pool are reproductions from other Roman villas on the Bay of Naples, as much of the Villa dei Papiri remains unexcavated. The Getty Villa reproduced details of ancient Roman homes in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae.

In Cañon de Sentimiento, on the border between Pacific Palisades and Malibu, is the 64 acre property that J. Paul Getty purchased in 1945 and called the Getty Ranch. The Ranch House, to which he made various additions, became an entertainment home and showcased his first museum, housing his budding collection which at the time consisted of 18th century French furniture, Greek and Roman antiquities, and old master paintings. Getty set up a trust in 1953 for the "diffusion of artistic and general knowledge", and parts of the Ranch House were renovated so the J. Paul Getty Museum could open in 1954, the same year he made his first antiquity purchase specifically for the museum: the Mazarin Venus (a Roman statue formerly in the Cook Collection in England, see the Sculptures page).

Getty’s collection eventually outgrew the available gallery space at the Ranch House, and building a new antiquities gallery in 1957 only relieved the congestion for a short time. Beginning in 1968, Getty decided that a new facility had to be built in the 64 acre canyon, and eventually he decided to recreate the celebrated (but largely unexcavated) Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum which had been covered by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD that also destroyed Pompeii.


Reclining Youth Outer Peristyle Getty Villa HS3545

The Reclining Youth and the bronze sculptures displayed among the plants and along the colonnades are replicas of the originals found in the 18th century at the Villa dei Papiri. The Chiurazzi Foundry in Naples, which had received permission in the 19th century to make molds of the statues was still in business, and created the copies of these statues and the ones at either end of the reflecting pool. The decorations on the walls of the Outer Peristyle were derived from fragmentary wall paintings discovered in the Villa dei Papiri, the garlands from a villa in Pompeii, other designs from the House of Livia in Rome, and illusionist paintings that are adaptations of Second Style Roman wall paintings, all created by mural artist Garth Benton.


Mosaic-Shell Fountain East Garden Getty Villa HS3547


Mosaic-Shell Fountain East Garden Getty Villa HS3547c

The East Garden is one of the more tranquil places at the Getty Villa. On the east wall of the East Garden is a replica of an ancient niche water feature decorated with mosaics, shells and theater masks from the House of the Large Fountain in Pompeii. Sculpted bronze civet heads stream water into the more traditional circular pool planted with waterlilies and other plants. The image on the right is a detail crop from the master of the image on the left. Unlike most of the Getty images, these are 800 x 1200 pixel images.


Mosaic-Shell Fountain East Garden Getty Villa HS3549


Mosaic-Shell Fountain East Garden Getty Villa HS3549c

Detail of the ancient niche water feature from the House of the Large Fountain in Pompeii,
decorated with mosaics, shells and theater masks. The image at left is an 800 x 1200 oblique.
The image on the right is a 1000 x 1500 detail crop from the master of the image on the left.


Funerary Lion Gravestones and Vessels HS3557

Funerary Lion, Attic Greek, c. 380 BC, marble.

This crouching lion with his head turned to the right to face the viewer originally protected a grave near Athens. The face and mane are idealized, and the body is rather canine. Greek artists typically rendered lions in an unrealistic manner because, although lions (possibly cave lions) inhabited northern Greece in historic times (as reported by Herodotus) until they went extinct in 100 BC, they were rarely if ever seen by artists, so they were modeled after large dogs and house cats. In the 4th century BC, sculpted lions and other funerary sculptures were popular to protect the tomb and to show the wealth and prestige of the family. The rising ostentation of these displays led to an Athenian law in 317 BC which banned all but the simplest of grave markers.

Funerary vessels in the form of a Loutrophoros and two large Lekythos, Attic Greek, 4th century BC, marble.

At right center is the Loutrophoros of Aristomachos with his father Philytes and his brother. This almost complete marble loutrophoros (funerary water vessel) of the amphora type was made about 370 BC. The loutrophoros and the sculpted marble vessels in the form of a large Lekythos (a small terracotta funerary oil jar) were used as grave markers. Marble grave lekythoi typically had floral patterns painted on the shoulder. The sculpted figures were often of a woman in bridal dress.

The gravestones shown are the grave Naiskos of Sime (center) and Theogenis (far right). A grave Naiskos is a small temple in Classical order with columns or pillars and a pediment. They were sometimes used as small shrines or grave steles like these.

Between the gravestones and above the vessels is a marble Anthemion (c. 320 BC), the crowning element of a grave relief.

The majority of Greek sculptures that have survived from antiquity are funerary sculptures. A selection of the
funerary sculptures (steles, naiskos, and sarcophagi) in the Getty Collection are shown in the section below.


Gravestone of Theogenis HS3559


Gravestone of Tatianos and Tation HS3986

Gravestone of Theogenis, Greek, Athens, c. 360 BC, marble.

This naiskos with a triangular pediment supported by an architrave and antas shows Theogenis with her mother Nikomache and her brother Nikodemos, carved in high relief and identified by inscriptions on the architrave and pediment geison. At the right, an older woman named Nikomache sits on a stool. Her age is conveyed by her short hair and her thick, solid-looking build. She wears a dress with a cloak draped over her shoulders, and reaches out to shake hands with Theogenis, the woman standing at the left, who also wears a dress with a cloak draped over her shoulders. The fingers of her left hand grasp the edge of the cloak near her shoulder. Her hair is brushed back from her face, and gathered into a roll fastened loosely in back. A bearded young man, labeled as Nikodemos, the son of Polyllos, stands between the two women, wearing a cloak draped over his left shoulder, leaving his chest bare. His right arm crosses his chest to grasp the cloak at chest height, and his left hand holds the edge of the cloak at his shoulder. A rounded object suspended from his left wrist appears to be an aryballos (see the Six-Sided Bottle and Jar with Pentagonal Designs shown near the bottom of this page). The aryballos suggests exercise at the palaestra, and the thick, curly hair and beard is carved to look like new growth, all suggesting that he is a young man.

This sculpture probably served as a monument in a walled family burial plot. The figures on the relief were re-carved and the inscription changed through time. As it stands now, the monument commemorates the death of Theogenis. In the 300s B.C., the imagery of Athenian funerary monuments emphasized family unity even after death. The handshake gesture symbolized the continuing connection between the deceased and the living family members left behind.

This funerary relief demonstrates that large-scale works of art, and the wealth that created them, were not limited only to the city of Athens itself. This sculpture originally stood in a cemetery in the rural hinterland of the large territory controlled by the city of Athens. After it was excavated, the relief was owned by Lord Elgin, a famous collector of Greek antiquities. Although no longer visible, traces of paint remained on the relief when it decorated the Elgin family house in Scotland in the late 1800s. This naiskos was acquired by J. Paul Getty along with the Elgin Kore and the Gravestone of Myttion (shown below) in what Getty considered to be one of his crowning achievments as a collector.

Gravestone for Tatianos and Tation, Roman, Phrygia, Asia Minor, 150-175 AD, marble.

This stele tapers slightly towards the rounded top. The surface on which the figures stand was cut down for the man so the figure could be taller than the woman and still fit within the space provided. The man, Tatianos, stands to the left wearing armor with shoulder plates (pteryges) and long leather strips, with a chiton that falls below his knees. There are three incised disks and two bell-shaped objects at the top of the chestplate, and beneath them is another bell-shaped object and two blank disks. In his left hand, Tatianos holds a stick supposed to be a whip. The lash is not atached to the handle, but is incised into the center of the relief to the right of his left hand.There is a band in his hair, which is decorated with curls. He is wearing fur boots (mullei), and to his left is a vine knife, to his right is a diptych (double tablet).

The woman, Tation, wears a chiton and a width of cloth wrapped around her, shown on the upper arms and as wavy lines across her body. She appears to be holding the cloth with her left hand, while her right rests against her body. He hair curls up at the ends. She wears boots and seems to stand on tiptoe. Near her head is a comb without teeth, and to her right, a hand mirror.

Tatianos appears to have had a career with the Roman Army, grew wine grapes, and may have raised animals as the whip suggests. The presence of the diptych suggests that he wanted to appear to be a learned man. Tation is not presented as a housewife, with spindle and distaff, but as a well-groomed beauty with a comb and mirror. The workmanship is coarse and the proportions are distorted (especially the hands).


Gravestone of Phanokrates HS3562


Gravestone of Phanokrates HS3565

Gravestone of Phanokrates, Greek, Smyrna (Turkey), c. 200 BC, marble.

Phanokrates, depicted as a young, wealthy and learned man on this grave stele, is a clean-shaven young man with short, curly hair in a contrapposto pose with his head turned to the left. His aristocratic background is conveyed by the rich garments and the supplementary implements. He wears a short-sleeved tunic with a medium-length cloak (epaphtis), fastened at the shoulder with an unusual fibula in the shape of a large ivy leaf, and wound about his waist in a roll which is held in place by the left hand. The epaphtis is draped in a manner seen on other monuments in the eastern part of the Greek world.

The eagle-headed hilt of a short sword emerges from the cloak at his waist. His right hand rests on an object being presented by a fragmentary young attendant. Above his head is a shelf on which rest a closed pair of wax writing tablets, a chest with an arched lid which probably held book rolls, and a framed tablet with a wreath. The pose and drapery scheme are a standard type in the Smyrna area of Asia Minor. Similar, more complete (and somewhat older) versions of this type of stele include a horse, and the fact that Phanokrates carries a sword makes it likely that there was a horse on the missing portion of this stele. This type of scene originated in the middle of the second century BC, about a generation before this stele.


Gravestone of Phanokrates HS3954

Close detail of the gravestone of Phanokrates, showing the quality of the sculpting and sense of presence in this powerfully modeled stele, along with the Eastern-style drapery of the epaphtis (medium-length cloak) and the ivy-headed fibula.


Grave Monument of Popillius and Calpurnia HS3568

Funerary Relief with Busts of Popillius and Calpurnia, Roman, 1-20 AD, marble.

Staring forward in hieratic frontality with serious expressions, Popillius and Calpurnia are depicted as very Roman individuals. The heads and hands have been worked in relatively high relief, and the hair is well-modeled, but most of the rest of the work is carved in a repetitive and poorly executed manner, with cursory details carved on the folds of the drapery, the hands and the ears. Popillius is wearing a tunic with a toga over it, his right hand resting on a fold of the fabric. Calpurnia is dressed in a tunic, with her hand resting on a width of fabric lying over her left shoulder (possibly a mantle). The inscription reveals that this man is a former slave living in common-law marriage with another former slave. The faces were modeled on portraits of Tiberius and Germanicus for the man, and on portraits of Livia for the woman, including a characteristic hairstyle.


Sarcophagus Panel Endymion and Selene HS3572

Sarcophagus Panel with the Myth of Endymion and Selene, Roman, c. 210 AD, marble.

On this fragment of a Roman sarcophagus, the mythological story of the love of Selene, the moon goddess, for the beautiful young mortal Endymion provides an allegorical message of hope for the deceased. In the center of the scene, Selene, identified by the crescent moon in her hair, alights from her chariot. Accompanied by Erotes, she approaches the sleeping Endymion. Hypnos, the god of sleep, stands behind Endymion, holding a branch of poppies and pouring sleeping potion over him; by these means, Endymion sleeps eternally, in order to remain with the immortal goddess. The youth's tranquil sleep parallels the peaceful sleep of death. At the far right, the artist showed a later moment in the story. Her evening tryst with the sleeping Endymion over, Selene has remounted her chariot and prepares to fly back to the sky.

On the left, an elaborate pastoral scene with a shepherd and his flock does not directly enter the story, it merely serving as a setting. A landscape is represented in several tiers. At the lower left is a shepherd wearing an exomis (a chiton that leaves one shoulder bare). He has a bag slung over his shoulder and leans on a staff with his left hand. With his right hand, he seems to be offering food to the dog sitting in front of him. A small seated child is playing with a bird in a cavelike recess below the shepherd. To the right, the rear half of a sheep stands on the lower border, turned to the right. A ram with curled horns stands on an outcrop of rock above the dog, and to the right of the ram and on a higher level, a goat suckles her kid. In the upper level above the shepherd there are the feet of a goat which was turned toward the left, but which is now missing. The rear part of a cow facing right is worked in relief on the upper wall behind the break, and another partial cow is facing right just below the break. Below and in front of the second cow is a goat looking up at the figure of a local god sitting between two trees next to the vertical break. Just to the right of the vertical break, the lower half of a winged woman (possibly Aura, a goddess of the wind) hurries toward Selene's chariot to hold the rearing horses.

Just to the right of center, Selene is descending from her chariot, which is drawn by two rearing horses. Some struts and a wing below the horses along with other remains just above the bottom border indicate that there used to be a group composed of Eros and Psyche embracing, an unusual representation on Endymion sarcophagi (usually, this position is taken by local gods). There was another Eros standing on the back of the front horse (there are remains of the left foot and wing). The chariot itself is decorated with scrolls, and the wheel hub has a lion's head. The small figure in the chariot below Selene's veil may have been Psyche, although there are no wings the long robe and the arrangement of the hair in a small knot on the forehead suggest this.


Sarcophagus Panel Endymion and Selene 3675

This oblique, taken at the Getty Center before the sarcophagus panel was moved to the Villa, is added for context.

This angle gives a better view of the scene on the left. Repeated from above: at the lower left is the shepherd wearing an exomis (a chiton that leaves one shoulder bare). He has a bag slung over his shoulder and leans on a staff with his left hand. With his right hand, he seems to be offering food to the dog sitting in front of him. A small seated child is playing with a bird in a cavelike recess below the shepherd. To the right, the rear half of a sheep stands on the lower border, turned to the right. A ram with curled horns stands on an outcrop of rock above the dog, and to the right of the ram and on a higher level, a goat suckles her kid. In the upper level above the shepherd there are the feet of a goat which was turned toward the left, but which is now missing. The rear part of a cow facing right is worked in relief on the upper wall behind the break, and another partial cow is facing right just below the break. Below and in front of the second cow is a goat looking up at the figure of a local god sitting between two trees next to the vertical break. Just to the right of the vertical break, the lower half of a winged woman (possibly Aura, a goddess of the wind) hurries toward Selene's chariot to hold the rearing horses.


Sarcophagus Panel Endymion and Selene HS3575

The moon goddess Selene is emerging from her chariot, just stepping to the ground on her left foot. She is wearing a long chiton with overfold, and holds a billowing veil in both hands. A small crescent moon is in her hair. As it is night, she is accompanied by a small Eros holding a torch and by another small Eros flying downward, headfirst, holding a small garland in both hands and looking back over his right shoulder. Another Eros is raising the garment of the sleeping Endymion, so Selene can see the beauty of his body. Endymion is sleeping in his typical pose, with his right arm raised, the hand behind his head, and with his upper body elevated. Hypnos, the robed, bearded god of sleep with wings in his hair, is pouring poppy liquor from a horn over the sleeping Endymion. In his left hand, Hypnos holds a branch marking the division between scenes (the branch has a large fruit which may represent an enormous poppy plant). In the background is a rocky ledge on which a nude god is seated, his right hand held to his head in astonishment (probably Latmos, local god of Mount Latmos where Endymion was sleeping).

A small scene, not usually found on Endymion sarcophagi, is added to the right. Selene (identified by the crescent moon in her hair) is being carried upward in her horse-drawn chariot after the encounter with Endymion. Selene, her head encircled by her veil, is holding a torch in her right hand and the reins in her left. A goddess reclines on the ground in the right corner beneath the horses (she has no identifying attributes, but this may be Gaea (Gaia or Ge), the primeval mother goddess and personification of the Earth, or the Roman Tellus or Terra Mater, the Latin name for Mother Earth).


Sarcophagus Panel Endymion and Selene HS3934

An oblique of the scene shown above, showing more of the chariot and the small figure below Selene’s veil (possibly Psyche), as well as the depth of the relief carvings in this sarcophagus. Some of the figures are carved nearly in the round.


Sarcophagus Panel Endymion and Selene HS3940

Detail from the right side of the sarcophagus panel with Endymion and Selene. At top left, the nude local god with his hand raised to his head in astonishment (probably Latmos, local god of Mount Latmos in modern Turkey, where the myth took place). Below him, the head and wings of the Eros flying downward holding a garland. Below him is the Eros raising the garment to reveal the sleeping Endymion, who is shown with his right arm raised and the hand atop his head. Above Endymion is the bearded, robed god of sleep (Hypnos), pouring poppy liquor from a horn over the sleeping Endymion. In his left hand, Hypnos holds a branch marking the division between scenes (the branch has a large fruit which may represent a huge poppy plant).


Gravestone of a Woman with Attendant HS3593

Gravestone with a Woman and Her Attendant, Greek, c. 100 BC, marble.

Lounging in a cushioned armchair, a woman reaches out to touch the lid of a shallow chest held by a servant girl on this funerary relief. The depiction of the deceased reaching out for an item held by a servant has a long history in Greek funerary art and probably alludes to the hope of continuing earthly pleasures in the afterlife. The dead woman must have come from a prominent and wealthy family. Numerous elements on the relief signal her high status, as do the scale and overall quality of the work. She wears snake-bracelets, presumably gold, on her upper and lower arms. Her elaborate chair has a turned leg decorated with lions' paws and an eagle arm-support. Also the clothes and hairstyle of the attendant characterize the young girl as a slave.

This relief has been substantially altered over the years. Originally, it took the form of a shallow naiskos, or three-sided grave monument, but three elements have been cut away: an architectural top portion, probably in the form of a pediment; the left side wall; and a lower portion that probably had an inscription. These alterations may have occurred in 1770 when the relief became part of the collection of Lord Lansdowne and was hung over a door in his London house.

The elaborately carved leg of the chair is formed of several discs with a lion's paw and volutes in the center, and the armrest is supported by an upright carved in the form of a bird. The perspective of the chair is unusual in that the back is flat to the right side of the truncated naiskos, while the leg and arm are carved three-dimensionally, at an angle toward the viewer. The woman's body is shown in an odd position as well, with her legs and head in left profile and her torso twisted sideways to the frontal view.

The woman wears a sleeveless dress with a V-shaped neckline and a flat band under her breasts. A loosely wrapped cloak hangs over her left arm and crosses her body below the waist to cover her legs. The different weights of the two fabrics are shown by the deeply carved folds of the heavier fabric of the dress showing through the lighter cloak in some areas. The woman's thong-sandaled feet rest on a low platform. Her hair is parted in the center, brushed back and rolled at the sides, and gathered into a ponytail in back, with a fillet encircling her head. The hair is carved in fine, individual strands. Her thin lips are separated by a drilled channel, and se wears snake armlets and bracelets. The workmanship is very similar to contemporary stelai from the island of Delos, known in the pre-Archaic Greece of Homer as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.


Gravestone of Myttion HS3597

Gravestone of Myttion, Greek, Athens, c. 400 BC, marble and pigment.

The stele has a triangular pediment and a slightly recessed figural area. The pediment was originally decorated with a painted design of rolls of tainiai and a decorative floral border called a kymation. The young woman stands in a three-quarter frontal pose facing right. Her long hair is brushed back from her face and fashioned into a braid wrapped around her head. She wears soft shoes with indistinct toes. She wears an unusual costume consisting of a long dress beneath a long-sleeved three-quarter length coat called a kandys, which originated in Persia and was adopted by Athenian women at the end of the fifth century BC, when increasing imports from Asia Minor influenced fashion. The kandys was a symbol of luxury at the time of its introduction to Athens as it was sometimes adorned with gold plaques and elaborate borders and was an expensive and unusual item.

The young girl shown on this grave stele, the ancient equivalent of a tombstone, is presumably Myttion. Such a depiction of the dead either alone or with family members was typical for grave markers of the Classical period. Faint traces of a painted inscription give the girl's name. She carries a bird in her left hand, as do many young girls on grave stelai, but the meaning of this attribute is not certain (it may represent the life of the deceased). Myttion's special clothing and the bird she holds indicate that she may have been taking part in a religious ritual. The traces of paint that have survived on this stele, especially the red color on Myttion's shoes, remind us that most Greek sculpture was originally painted.

Acquired from the Elgin Collection along with the Gravestone of Theogenis and the Elgin Kore, this acquisition was considered by J. Paul Getty to be one of the greatest triumphs of his collecting career. Lord Elgin is best known for removing much of the sculptural decoration from the Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens (the Elgin Marbles) and shipping them to Great Britain.


Gravestone of Apollonia HS3607


Gravestone of Demainete HS3611

Gravestone of Apollonia, Greek, Athens, c. 100 BC, marble.

A young girl stands inside a naiskos or shallow three-sided structure on this Athenian grave monument. The inscription carved above her head identifies her as Apollonia, the daughter of Aristandros and Thebageneia. She is wearing a high-girt dress fastened by a round button visible under the right shoulder and belted above the waist, a cloak over one shoulder, and platform sandals, all of which help to date the monument. Her hair is styled with a central braid similar to that of Demainete, shown above right. Her face is long, with narrow eyes, and a running drill has been used to define the line between the lips.

Apollonia holds a pomegranate in her left hand and reaches up with her right to stroke a dove perched atop a tall pillar. The pomegranate had a long history as a funerary symbol for the Greeks. In mythology, after being kidnapped by Hades, Persephone had to remain in the underworld for part of the year because she had consumed a pomegranate seed. Birds frequently appear with little girls in funerary sculpture, possibly only as a sentimental reference to a favorite pet, or perhaps with a deeper symbolic meaning related to the correlation of the soul with a bird in Greek thought. Originally, the carving would have been enlivened by paint (traces of red paint remain on the sandals). The bottom of the naiskos under Apollonia's feet was left rough because it would have been embedded in a base. The four holes at the top of the naiskos, one of which still holds part of an iron peg, would have been used to hang funerary wreaths on the monument.

Gravestone of Demainete, Greek, Athens, c. 310 BC, marble.

This Greek relief sculpture in the form of a naiskos once marked the grave of a little girl. The relief depicts the girl standing on the right attended by a servant. The short hair and long-sleeved garment of the attendant identify her as a slave. The inscription running over their heads identifies the girl as Demainete, the daughter of Prokles. Both Demainete's hairstyle and the shoulder cords of her dress are signs of her youth. Demainete stands facing left in a three-quarter frontal pose, and has a broad face, flattened at the front, and large eyes. Her hair, fashioned in a central braid on top of her head, was common for boys and girls to help keep their long hair under control (it is also the hairstyle seen of figures of Eros, son of Aphrodite). Demainete wears a short-sleeved dress with shoulder cords, belted under the breast, and a cloak gathered at her waist. Her left hand is wrapped in the folds of her cloak in a motif called the "hanging sleeve".

Demainete holds a bird in her now damaged right hand and the servant cradles another large, fat bird, probably a partridge. Although the meaning is not known for certain, young girls frequently hold birds on funerary monuments. The depiction may be a simple reference to a beloved pet, or it may have some deeper symbolic meaning representing the life or soul of the child. The size of the monument, the quality of the carving, and the individual touches included, such as the two types of birds, indicate that Demainete came from a wealthy and prominent Athenian family. 


Gravestone of Philoxenos and Philoumene HS3682


Gravestone of Philoxenos and Philoumene 1484

Gravestone of Philoxenos and Philoumene, Greek, Athens, c. 400 BC, marble.

Philoxenos, a warrior with armor and shield, solemnly shakes hands with his wife Philomene on this stele, or gravestone, from Athens. Their names are carved above the figures' heads, and the figures were originally elaborated with painted details. The handshake was a symbolic and popular gesture on Classical gravestones: it could represent a simple farewell, a reunion in the afterlife, or a continuing connection between the deceased and the living. The fact that it is often difficult to tell which figure represents the deceased further emphasizes this connection of the worlds of the living and the dead. On grave markers of the late 400s BC, the living rarely display sorrow or grief. Instead, their calm, expressionless faces reproduce the idealized features and detachment that prevailed in the sculptural style of Athens and the surrounding area (Attica) at this time.

Philoxenos, represented here wearing a helmet and cuirass, probably distinguished himself in combat and fell in battle. On his head he wears an Attic helmet adorned with a tall incised brush, with the visor pushed up and with no cheekpieces. He wears a short-sleeved tunic under his cuirass with a double row of pteryges (decorative skirt of leather or fabric strips, from the Greek for feathers). With his left hand, he holds a round shield, which is carved in relief. The style and iconography on this stele date it to the period just after the Peloponnesian War of 404 BC. Funerary reliefs of the time reflected a renewed appreciation for family life following that disastrous war with Sparta.


Gravestone of Maqi HS3946


Gravestone of a Boy HS3977

Fragment of a Funerary Stele, Gravestone of Maqi, Roman, Palmyra, Syria, c. 200-250 AD, limestone and pigment.

Depicted on this commemorative marker is the bust of a bearded man, the deceased, wearing a tunic and himation. The stele would originally have stood in a family tomb used for multiple burials. An identifying inscription in Aramaic fills the field of the relief to the right of the head (Maqi, son of Ma'ani). The art of Palmyra, a caravan city in central Syria, combined imported Roman and local styles. In this funerary portrait, the flat frontal presentation of the figure and the stylized carving of the hair in rows of tight curls are features of Eastern art, while the form of the bust is Roman. Maqi may have been one of the wealthy traders living in Palmyra.

Gravestone of a Boy, Roman, made in Greece, 1-50 AD, yellowish Pentelic marble.

This image shows 75% of the lower section of a rectangular grave stele. Out of picture at the top is a triangular pediment with a shield and three akroteria (architecural extensions at the corners and peak of the pediment). On the slightly recessed field of the relief are three figures. On the left is a woman seated on a stool wearing a long chiton with short sleeves and a mantle which leaves the front of the body uncovered. Her left foot rests on a block, her hair is gathered into a roll on the sides and a knot in back. A dog sits on her left side, looking up with its left paw raised. Behind the seated woman is a standing woman leaning over the seated woman, supporting her with her right hand. Her dress and hairstyle are similar to the seated woman. The seated woman is clasping the hand of the young man (the deceased), who is standing at the right. The seated woman is probably the youth's mother, and the woman in back is likely another family member. The youth is wearing a chiton with short sleeves and has a mantle wrapped around him which leaves the right shoulder exposed and hangs down in a long fold over his left forearm. His weight is on his right leg, and he is wearing sandals whose straps were painted on.

Various features of this gravestone indicate that it was carved when Greece was a part of the Roman Empire. The hairstyles, clothing of the figures and architectural style identify it as Roman, but the scene of the loved ones clasping hands is derived from Greek gravestones of the Classical period (480-323 BC). The boy remains united with his mother by this gesture. The relatively large amount of free space left in the relief field above the figures and between the two women and the boy indicate that this stele dates from the first half of the 1st century AD, as do the hairstyles of the women. The rather cursory workmanship and the treatment of architectural details and folds in the clothing indicate that it was carved in the provinces, using an Attic pattern.


Gravestone of Poseides and Wife HS3962


Gravestone of Poseides HS3960

Gravestone of Poseides and His Wife, East Greek, Asia Minor, c. 275 BC, marble and pigment.

The gravestone of Poseides and his wife is a tall narrow stele with a parabolic floral anthemion at the top, which consists of a seven frond palmette above two half palmettes which spring from acanthus leaves above a molding which separates it from the shaft of the stele. On the shaft of the stele, a long inscription coveres the entire upper half, shown in detail in the image which is focused on the inscription at right. The inscription gives the name of the deceased and presents a formal, legally-worded curse against anyone who would despoil or desecrate the grave, stating that the miscreant would be (transitive verb) by Artemis and all the gods. Reference was made to the Ephesia [Grammata], ancient Greek magical formulas from the 5th or 4th century BC derived from the Artemis at Ephesus.

Carved in moderately high relief, Poseides is represented as a young man, clean shaven with short hair, standing with his weight on his right leg and with his left leg positioned to imply movement to the left. He wears a hunting costume consisting of a short tunic and a medium-length cloak (an epaphtis) secured on his left shoulder and draped over his left arm. His right index finder points down towards a long, lean hunting hound with a sharp muzzle and pointed ears walking beside him (which was originally brightly painted).

At the right, Poseides wife is represented as a smaller figure to emphasize the importance of her husband as the deceased. She is facing left, wearing a long dress with a cloak, her hair pulled up behind her head in a bun. Her left arm is held across her waist, with the thumb and the first two fingers extended. The feet of both figures are rounded with no toes, indicating that they both wore soft boots or shoes which would have been had painted details. In addition to the dog and the boots, the stele once bore much other painted decoration. Traces of color remain on the figures, the floral motif, and on the moldings separating the upper and lower sections of the stele.


Gravestone of Thrasynos HS3970


Gravestone of Thrasynos HS3968

Gravestone of Thrasynos, Greek, Athens, c. 375 BC, marble.

This Athenian stele has a floral anthemion carved in low relief on top composed of a central palmette of eight fronds rising out of acanthus leaves, with half palmettes at each side. Two large lotus buds fill the space between the central palmette and the side half-palmettes. A sunken figural panel takes up more than half of the height of the stele, containing a family group of a mother, father and son, identified in the inscription above as Thrasnyos, son of Thrasonides and Archilla.

At the left, the mother Archilla sits on an unpadded stool, resting her feet on a low footstool. She wears a dress and a cloak covering her shoulders, and shakes hands with her bearded son Thrasnyos, who wears a cloak gathered in a fold at his waist and covering both shoulders, but leaving his chest bare. Behind Archilla stands the father Thrasonides, whose beard is longer than his son's, with his right hand raised toward Thrasynos, holding a knife in his left hand. The lightly incised knife and left arm were carved at a later date, at the same time as the image of the father was reworked into the form of a priest in a long tunic (rather than the cloak he originally wore, based upon the hemline visible below the stool). The date of the stele is confirmed by the tall narrow form and the style of the anthemion.

In Athens in the 300s B.C., family connections were very important in all aspects of life, and the imagery of funerary monuments emphasized family unity even after death. The handshake was a popular gesture on Classical Greek stelai. It symbolized the continuing connection between the deceased and the living family members left behind.


Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Life of Achilles HS3832

Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Life of Achilles, Roman, Athens, 180-200 AD, marble.

Scenes from the life of Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War, decorate three sides of this Roman sarcophagus (which was made in Athens). On one end, Achilles is discovered by Odysseus among the daughters of King Lykomedes on the island of Skyros before joining the expedition against Troy. On the other end, Achilles arms for battle as a spear carrier looks on. The front shows Achilles, with his hand on a horses head and his foot on Hector's wrist, stepping into his chariot after his battle with the Trojan commander, who lies dead at his feet. Achilles is mounting his chariot to drag Hector's body around the walls of the city of Troy. These three scenes are depicted in high relief. The rear shows an unfinished scene in low relief of Centaurs fighting the Lapiths, which also probably refers to Achilles since he was educated by the centaur Chiron.


Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Life of Achilles HS3838

An oblique angle showing the depth of relief on the front of this Roman sarcophagus.

Burial in a sarcophagus was a popular custom during the period from about 150 to 250 A.D. Sarcophagi were mass produced in a few centers, one of which was Athens. Athenian sarcophagi were carved on all four sides and often surmounted with reclining figures. The draped figures atop this sarcophagus were unfinished. This was typical as the common practice was to finish the lid with portraits of the deceased, but the figures and drapery on this lid was left unfinished (the reason is unknown).


Grave Monument of a Girl HS4027

Grave Monument of a Girl, Roman, Rome, 120-140 AD, marble.

In this sarcophagus lid in the form of a kline monument of a reclining girl, the kline (couch), the girl’s head, neck, upper torso and foot were worked in the round, and the rest of the figure was worked in very high relief. Propped up on her elbow, the young girl is wearing a tunic with sleeves and a long cloak, petting her small dog and looking at her two dolls, which lie at the foot of the couch. On the back of the couch behind the girl's head is a sleeping Cupid, a symbol of premature death, carved in high relief with its left leg crossed under the right in imitation of the position of the girl. The careful attention given to carving the girl's face as a portrait contrasts with the simplified treatment of her body, whose proportions have been elongated to fill the available space. Her hairstyle dates the work to the time of the Emperor Hadrian.

On this funerary sculpture, the child appears with her playthings, showing her in eternity with the things she enjoyed in life. This imagery, drawn from everyday life, differs from the mythological allegories often used on sarcophagi. Beginning in the Augustan period, kline monuments were placed in tombs, either in niches or on flat bases. Eventually, as Roman funerary practices changed, these sculptures began to be used as lids for sarcophagi. This piece has grooves on the underside that would have fit the walls of a sarcophagus; it is the earliest surviving example of such a use.


Grave Monument of a Girl HS4032

Behind the girl’s head, on the right side, is an opening in the middle of the short side which goes all the way through the marble. This opening was designed to allow offerings to be placed into the sarcophagus below after burial. The girl’s head, which was carved as a portrait with finely worked hair combed back in waves, braided in back and fixed in a large knot at the back of the head, was broken off and reattached as can be seen from the fill line at the neck. The hole in the earlobe once held an earring.


Cremation Chest HS4046


Cremation Chest HS4048

Cremation Chest (Cinerarium) with tabula and scrolls, Roman, 20-40 AD, marble and pigment.

In the first century AD, Roman dead were usually cremated rather than buried. Their ashes were placed in a marble cinerarium, or cremation chest, which was laid in a niche in the family tomb. A rectangular tabula with a molded frame would have held the inscription, but this one is blank. One of many cineraria executed in Rome during the first and second centuries, this is one of the few which can be dated to the Tiberian or early Claudian period (20-40 AD).

Acanthus leaves form a cup below the tabula from which two symmetrical scrolls emerge to adorn the area surrounding the tabula and sides. Within the first loop of each scroll is a blossom, and the scrolls end in a chalice of leaves, with birds in the upper corners pecking on the leaves. On the sides, similar cups of acanthus leaves erupt into a profusion of leaves with three loops (in the lowest, a flower; the middle loop holds leaves; the upper loop holds what appears to be fruit), terminating in a small krater at the top. Two birds drink out of the krater which emerges from the leaves. The lid is a gabled roof mixed with the altar form with volutes. Within the gable pediment, two birds are drinking from a flat bowl. There is a flower in the end of each volute, and between the gable and volutes are palmettes. The volutes are also decorated with leaves, and encircled in the middle with a brace consisting of twisted bands and leaves. The work on this exceptionally ornate, well-sculpted urn is of high quality.


Sarcophagus with Scenes of Bacchus HS4070

Sarcophagus with Scenes of Bacchus, Roman, Rome, 210-220 AD, supports: 1800s, marble.
(Dionysiac Sarcophagus of Maconiana Severiana)

The sarcophagus is in the shape of a lenos (tub), and is decorated with reliefs on all four sides (those on the back are shallow). 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 back of the sarcophagus shows another Dionysiac scene of winemaking carved in a simpler, flatter style. Panels with related figures are flanking 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.

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.


Sarcophagus with Scenes of Bacchus HS4070c1
Dionysiac Sarcophagus of Maconiana Severiana, left side

The reliefs on the front show Dionysiac revels with a wealth of Greek mythological figures which center around the discovery of Ariadne by Dionysos. Dionysos with his right arm over his head is standing in the middle, below the tabula, supported by a Satyr holding a Thyrsos (which Dionysos is also holding at the top). The Thyrsos (or Thyrsus) was a magic staff or wand of giant fennel covered with ivy vines and leaves, and topped with a pine cone. Associated with Dionysos, the Satyrs and Maenads, the Thyrsos was a symbol of prosperity, fertility and hedonism. Satyrs and Maenads were male and female followers of Dionysos.

To the left, six figures from the Thiasos (the ecstatic retinue of Dionysos) are portrayed (from Dionysos, right to left): a Maenad with a Tympanum (drum); a Satyr with a child on his left shoulder, an enormous bearded head cradled in his right arm, and beneath him, a Panther lying down and looking over its right shoulder at the child; an old Satyr (Silenos?) with a Thyrsos; a Satyr playing a double Flute; and a Maenad with a Kithara on the left side. Out of picture to the left is a Satyr with a Lagobolon (a stick used for hunting hares) and a Syrinx (Syrinx was a Nymph and follower of Artemis, known for her chastity, who was pursued by the god Pan. She ran to a river's edge and asked the nymphs for assistance. The nymphs turned her into hollow water reeds, which Pan cut to make the first Pan Pipes, henceforth called a Syrinx).

The lid is a flat plate with a high-standing border at the front which contains a relief frieze. This frieze is unusual in that it is not continuous but is divided into separate field plates. There is a tabula with inscription in the center of the relief. The individual plates (from left to right this time) are a seated Satyr playing a Flute; a Satyr with a Lyre; a Satyr with a Cymbal and a Panther; a Maenad with a Thyrsos; Herakles, seated, with a Kantharos (Greek pottery used for drinking) and his club; a Satyr playing a cross-Flute; the tabula with inscription; and a Satyr with a Syrinx and a Lagobolon.


Sarcophagus with Scenes of Bacchus HS4070c2
Dionysiac Sarcophagus of Maconiana Severiana, rt side

The right side reliefs on the Dionysiac Sarcophagus of Maconiana Severiana, left to right, starting just left of center: a Maenad with a Tympanum (drum), Dionysos with his right arm over his head, below the tabula, supported by a Satyr holding a Thyrsos (which Dionysos is also holding at the top); an old satyr with the hidquarters, legs and horns of a goat (most likely Pan) lifting Ariadne's mantle; Ariadne reclining on a rock, her face left as a boss so it could be worked into a portrait of the deceased (although it was left blank); a Maenad with a Cymbal above and behind Ariadne; a Tree cut in high relief bordering the scene at the radius of the sarcophagus; a statue of Priapus with his characteristic erection, standing on a cylindrical pedestal encircled by a wreath; and a Satyr holding a Lagobolon in his right hand and out of picture, pulling a stubborn goat with his left hand. In front of the Satyr with Lagobolon is a rock upon which lies a basket of fruit. Further out of picture to the right is a Maenad playing a double Flute and a Satyr holding a torch in his right hand and a plate of fruit in his left hand.

The lid relief plates, from left to right, are: a Satyr playing a cross-Flute; the tabula with inscription; a Satyr with a Syrinx and a Lagobolon; a Mule on its knees with a Satyr on its back; a Paniskos (a young satyr with the hindquarters of a goat) playing a double Flute; a Satyr placing a vessel on a square base; a Satyr with a torch; and as a mirror image of the first figure on the far left of the lid reliefs: a seated Satyr playing the Flute.

The Sarcophagus of Maconiana Severiana is striking for its clear organization and the liveliness of the individual figures. This sarcophagus may have been executed in the same workshop as the Endymion and Selene Sarcophagus shown further above.


Roman Fresco Woman and Leopard HS3550

Wall Fragment with Woman and Leopard, Roman, 50-75 AD, fresco.

In this framed scene a woman offers a kantharos to a leopard. The frame is a double border, the inner border suggesting a rope, surrounding a red background. The loosely draped woman (probably a maenad) reclines on her left arm in front of a two branched tree, as she offers the silver kantharos (a ritual cup) to a seated leopard (both are associated with Bacchus).


Athena Marsyas and River God HS3635

Athena-Minerva with Aulos, Marsyas and River God, Floor Mosaic,
 Roman, Clupea, 300-400 AD, limestone and marble, Nabeul Museum

This floor mosaic from Clupea (modern Kelibia), near Neapolis (Nabeul), Tunisia shows an in-depth knowledge of Classical Greek mythology. The episode portrayed in this mosaic precedes the competition between Apollo and Marsyas, where the satyr challenged the god to a musical competition to be judged by the Muses. Athena-Minerva wears a peplos (a woolen garment pinned at the shoulder) and himation (draped mantle) and crested gold helmet and jewelry. She sits on a rock near a river and holds the Aulos, a double reed flute she had invented to imitate the lamentation wailing that the two sisters of the gorgon Medusa broke out into after she was beheaded by Perseus.  Athena consults the River God who personifies her reflection in the river, portrayed by the reclining, partially draped man at right, as to her appearance while playing the flute. Athena's pursed lips reflect her disgust as she learns of the distorted shape of her face as she blew into the aulos. She threw down the instrument in anger and left. In the upper right, the satyr Marsyas, dressed in a leopard skin watches from behind a rock in the abstract landscape. He retrieved the aulos after it was cast aside by Athena, and accompanied by Cybele wandered through Phrygia (Turkey) becoming an expert player. Cybele, a Mother goddess, was Phrygia’s only known goddess and was associated with the introduction of the tympanon (or tympanum), a hand drum associated with the rites of Cybele when they were brought to Greece.

After Marsyas became expert with the flute, he challenged Apollo to a contest to be judged by the Muses (in an alternate version of the myth, Apollo challenged Marsyas when he became jealous of the satyr’s accomplishment). The winner would do as he liked with the loser. When Apollo was judged the victor, Marsyas was flayed alive and his skin was nailed to a pine tree. The satyr's blood and the tears of the Muses mixed to become the tributary of the Meander river called the Marsyas. There are several versions of this well-known myth.

This superb mosaic, discovered in 1974, was among 26 mosaics loaned by the Nabeul Museum for an exhibition at the Getty.


Relief with Achilles Thetis and Worshippers HS3853

Relief with Achilles, Thetis, and Worshippers, Greek, Thessaly, c. 350 BC, marble.

The Greek hero Achilles, identifiable by his shield and helmet, rides with his mother Thetis in a chariot on this fragmentary relief. The chariot slowly converges on a procession of worshippers, who are dressed as travelers, wearing cloaks and wide-brimmed hats. Only seven of these waiting men remain on the broken relief, but originally there must have been about ten. In Greek religion, many heroes were worshipped and had religious cults associated with them. It was believed that they could intercede on the behalf of mortals. Achilles was certainly worshipped as a hero, and some scholars believe that in certain places, he may even have been worshipped as a god. In this relief, the group of worshippers brings three rams to sacrifice to Achilles. Scholars believe it was made in Thessaly, where, according to Greek mythology, Achilles was born and educated. The relief takes the usual form of a votive monument that was set up as an offering in a religious sanctuary. The dedicators are named in the partially legible inscription at the bottom of the relief, which gives the names of Lakrates and Gephes and refers to the religious association of the Achilleides, who claim to be descendants of Achilles.

A relief is a two-dimensional work in which the carved figures project from a background plane. In high relief, the figures project at least half of their circumference from the background. In low relief, they project only slightly. On this Greek relief of the Classical period, the heads of Thetis and Achilles, Achilles' shield, the horse's noses, the ram's head in the foreground and the entire head of the foreground horse are carved in high relief, as are the right arms of the two front worshippers.


Altars with Aphrodite and Adonis HS4132

Pair of Portable Altars: Aphrodite, Adonis and Five Nymphs, Greek, Taras, South Italy, 400-375 BC, terracotta.
This is an exceptionally important pair of arulae due to their artistic quality, their size, and the state of preservation.

The scenes on the two arulae form a unified composition, although Arula 2 (at right) forms a self-contained scene. On Arula 1, three women move in an orderly row across rocky ground, each dressed in a peplos with long overfolds. The two women at left wear hoop earrings with the one in the center wearing a sakkos (a fabric headdress). All three faces are in profile, with the one at left raised slightly and the others lowered. Their lower bodies and legs are in three-quarter view and overlap, with the legs fully modeled beneath the cloth, which clings to the bodies revealing the form beneath. The center woman carries a ladder-shaped xylophone which she plays with her right hand. The woman on the right holds the shoulder of the woman in the center with her right hand, and holds a tympanon (which is shown in perspective) in her left hand.

The composition on Arula 2 (right) is a self-contained scene, with the rocky ground at lower left forming the continuing element between the two arulae. The focus is on the embracing couple, Aphrodite and Adonis, who are seated next to each other on rocks. Aphrodite is seated to the left, with her upper body in a frontal pose and her head turned slightly to the right. She wears her peplos pinned only on the left shoulder, leaving the right breast exposed. She embraces Adonis with her left hand. Adonis, whose rather soft body is covered from the waist down with a himation, has his right arm about the shoulders of Aphrodite and his left brought to his head to hold the himation in place. Aphrodite and Adonis have their right legs crossed behind their left. Two women flank the couple. The one on the left faces them, with her head in profile and her body in three-quarter view, carrying a tympanon in her right hand and raising her left to pull the overfold of her peplos over her hair. Her peplos is pinned only on the right shoulder, leaving the left breast exposed. The woman to the right is seated on a casket with her head downcast in a pensive and melancholy expression with her hands clasped around her right knee and the right leg crossed behind the left. This is a quiet and introspective scene which contrasts with the motion of the windblown figures in Arula 1. The composition depicted on Arula 2 shows more depth of perspective and a greater sense of space, with figures in the foreground and background placed on different levels, while the composition of Arula 1 is more linear.


Altars with Aphrodite and Adonis 1652

The Aphrodite and Adonis Arulae taken while at the Getty Center, before being moved to the Villa.

These scenes are interpreted as the Death of Adonis (god of beauty and desire), an annually-renewed vegetation god who was worshipped by women. Adonis, looking weak, sits supported in the arms of his lover (Aphrodite, goddess of Love). Two women in poses of grief flank them. On the left altar, three women rush to the scene, carrying musical instruments (a tympanon, or drum, and a xylophone). According to the myth, Aphrodite fell in love with the beautiful mortal youth Adonis, who was unfortunately killed in a hunting accident (which in some versions of the myth was caused by jealous gods). Aphrodite was devastated, and Zeus (king of the gods) made Adonis immortal, allowing him to leave the underworld for part of the year to be with Aphrodite. He had to return to Hades in the fall. This cycle of death and rebirth was linked to the crop seasons.

Small portable altars (known as Arulae) were a common product of South Italy and Sicily from the sixth century BC down to the Roman period. Arulae have also been found in Greece and as far away as the Black Sea. They were most often made from terracotta (occasionally from stone), and most are square or rectangular. Altars which are called Arulae are portable and too small to be used for animal sacrifice. This pair is relatively large, in an excellent state of preservation, have a high artistic quality in their reliefs, and so far are unique in that they form a pair, with the complementary decoration making a unified scene. The arulae were reconstructed from numerous fragments and are 90% complete (the few missing areas were filled with a synthetic material to which terracotta powder was added to match the existing texture.

Taras, an ancient Greek colony, was a coastal city in Apulia, southern Italy (modern Taranto), and was the center of a thriving Greek pottery industry a century later, during the 4th century BC. Most of the works from Taras were large, elaborate red-figured vessels for mortuary use, such as volute kraters, loutrophoroi, paterai, etc.


Elgin Throne HS4085

Ceremonial Chair (The Elgin Throne), Greek, 400-300 BC, Hymettian marble.

A rare surviving example of Greek marble furniture, the Elgin Throne was originally a seat of honor in a public space in Athens, possibly in the Theater of Dionysos. The throne was documented in the late 18th century as standing outside the church of Soteira Lykodemou in Athens alongside a throne from the Panathenaic Stadium. It was bought by Lord Elgin from the Bishop of Athens in 1804. The throne is decorated in relief with olive wreaths on the rear, the Tyrannicides on one side, and a duel between Theseus and an Amazon on the other side.

The two complementary figural scenes depict historical and mythological tales of Athens’ liberation. In 514 BC, Harmodios and Aristogeiton, during a failed attempt to assassinate the tyrant Hippias, killed Hippias’ brother Hipparchus, thus initiating the development of democracy in Athens. The image of the tyrant slayers reproduces a famous statue of the Tyrannicides by the sculptors Kritios and Nesiotes (477 BC) which once stood in the Athenian Agora and is now known from Hellenistic and Roman copies. The other scene on the throne depicts the Athenian hero Theseus battling an Amazon during a legendary invasion of the city. Amazons were often shown in Greek art (e.g. the Parthenon) to represent barbarian invasions of civilized Greek territories.

The Hymettian marble has a slight bluish tint. On either side in front is a double volute, the distant one damaged in an ancient fracture. Below the double volutes are stylized lion's legs, the paw of the foreground leg is missing. On the far right of the image is the Theseus relief. A partial inscription running along the upper edge of the back of the throne names Boethos.


Antefix Dancing Maenad and Satyr HS4076

Antefix in the form of a Maenad and Silenos Dancing,
South Etruscan, 500-475 BC, terracotta and pigment.

Originally purchased for $396,000 from the Fleischman collection, this early 5th century BC
Etruscan roof ornament was also among the antiquities which were returned to Italy by the Getty.

A Maenad was a female follower of Dionysus (Bacchus in the Roman Pantheon). Often portrayed in a state of ecstatic frenzy through a combination of dancing and intoxication, their name literally translates as the "raving ones". Silenos (or Silenus) was a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus. Typically older than other satyrs in Dionysus' retinue, the earlier Silenos resembled a folkloric man or the forest with the ears (and sometimes the legs and tail) of a horse.

This two-figure group was made by mold and is joined at the rear to fragments of a semicircular cover tile. The left ear, left arm and shoulder, left hip, leg and foot of Silenos and the right edge of the base are missing. The Maenad and Silenos stride to the right, each with an arm around the other's shoulder. The barefooted Maenad's legs are in profile, her body is in 3/4 view, and she averts her head from Silenos, turning it towards the front. The Maenad wears a thin chiton and has a light mantle over her back with zigzag-patterned ends which fall over her shoulders. In her right hand, she carries a pair of castanets. Between her feet you can see the right hoof of Silenos. A fragmentary antefix (probably from the same mold) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York shows that Silenos wore a panther skin, one paw of which hung between his left leg and the Maenad.

The original polychrome paint is exceptionally well-preserved for an artifact of this period. The Maenad's red chiton is scattered with rosettes (four white dots), and around its lower edge runs a border of black and white stripes. The mantle is striped in white, black and red. The Maenad's skin is white, the skin of Silenos is ocher. This is one of the largest surviving examples of this type of antefix, which may have come from Cerveteri.


Askos in the Shape of a Siren HS3845

Askos (Oil Jar) in the Shape of a Siren, Greek (Southern Italy), 480-450 BC, bronze.

This bronze Askos was used to hold expensive scented oils. Although the artist is unknown, it was made in a southern Italian workshop, and the facial features and head as well as the musculature of the figure of the male youth used as a handle date the askos to the 2nd quarter of the fifth century BC. This askos has great importance because it is an early Classical Bronze of exceptionally fine quality, because it provides valuable insight into early Classical Greek bronze-casting techniques, and because metal vessels cast in the shape of a siren are exceedingly rare. There are a few siren-askos from the Archaic period, predating this example by a century or so, but this is the only one from the early Classical period.

Sirens were human-headed birds who had great power over music and the world of the dead. No mortal who heard the voice of the siren lived to tell about it, except Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey, who strapped himself to the mast of his ship. Some of the early representations of sirens were male, but by the 5th c. BC the bearded males disappear and the only representations are female. Later representations of sirens had human bodies (often with bird legs and feet), but the earlier ones like this had bird bodies and human arms. In her left hand she holds a pomegranate and a syrinx in her right (a primitive wind instrument, aka pan pipes). The upper body of the askos has human breasts covered by a peplos with overfall, but this ends at the waist, beyond which are feathers, which have been carefully rendered. The condition of the askos is superb, with only a small ancient dent in the lower surface of the right wing. The head and the rendering of the hair (wavy and drawn back behind a simple crown) are similar to early Classical works from southern Italy and Sicily.

The Askos in the Shape of a Siren was purchased from the Fleischman Collection for $600,000 and was determined to have been illegally acquired, thus it was returned to Italy along with the other objects repatriated due to looting or smuggling.


Trapezophoros Griffins eating Doe HS4057

Trapezophoros, Two Griffins Attacking a Doe, Greek (South Italy), 325-300 BC, marble and pigment.

Carved from a single block of stone (except for the Griffin's ears), this polychrome marble trapezophoros (table support) is distinguished by its naturalistic forms and attention to detail. Brightly colored pigment, some of which is still visible on the wings, crests and in other areas, increased the dynamic rendering of the Griffins. The two Griffins crouch over their fallen prey on a rough base similar to those used for ancient Attic funerary animals of the 4th century BC. The curling Ionic wings (traditionally eastern Greek) were carved as a single piece (not separated), and each has a large rectangular and horizontal slot and a vertical groove on the facing, probably designed for a metal or wooden support for the table top which rested on the curling upper surface of the wings. The high quality of the carving and the stylistic detail of the animals (especially the eyes, which are treated as a raised dome) indicate that this was carved within the period when the last of the Athenian funerary beasts were created in the quarter century just after the death of Alexander the Great.

Griffins were mythological creatures associated with Apollo in the east, and by Classical times the motif of the griffin attacking a weaker animal symbolized the forces of civilization over barbarism, the power of the sun rising from the east, or the divine determination of death which sometimes arrives suddenly to mortals.

This image of the Trapezophoros was taken at the Getty Villa just before it was returned to Italy.


Trapezophoros Griffins eating Doe 1651

This image was taken at the Getty Center at an oblique angle to avoid reflections from the glass case.

Purchased from diamond magnate Maurice Tempelsman for $6.5 million along with the statue of Apollo (above), it was part of the looted antiquities depicted on the Medici Polaroids and was returned to Italy along with the other objects once it had been determined that they were illegally obtained. The Trapezophoros was illegally excavated from a Macedonian tomb near Ascoli Satriano (Foggia, Italy) in 1976-77, and is considered to be a masterpiece, with no pre-existing equals. It was sold to Giacomo Medici, then trafficked by London dealer Robin Symes who sold it to diamond magnate Tempelsman, who sold it to the Getty along with the Apollo and a Lekanis foot bath (which was purchased for $2.6 million).


Amphora Wedding of Alcestis HS3602

Black-figured Amphora, Wedding Procession of Alcestis and Admetos, Attic Greek, c. 530 BC, terracotta

The wedding procession of Alcestis and Admetos (Admetus) is on the principal side of this Panathenaic-shaped Amphora (large ceramic vessels containing olive oil, given as prizes in the Panathenaic Games). These vases were commissioned by the state from the leading pottery workshops of the day. This amphora dates from the period when their characteristic shape was set (530 BC). By the early 4th century BC, the archon's name (the ruler or chief magistrate) appeared on the vases, and as the 4th c. BC progressed these vases became more elongated (see the Amphora Prize Vessel Athenian Games HS3651 below).

The painting on this vase is attributed to the Three-Line Group, named for the three lines seen below the patterned frieze. Admetos (King of Pherae in Thessaly) was fated to die young, but Apollo won an extension for him from the Fates if he could find someone to give their life for him. Admetos approached his aged parents, who declined, and only his wife Alcestis was brave enough to die for him. On this vase, the couple stand in a quadriga (four-horse chariot), with Admetos in a chiton and mantle holding the reins. Alcestis is veiled, in a dress with incised squares enclosing circles. Apollo stands behind the horses but in front of the chariot, and facing him is Artemis, wearing a patterned dress and holding her hand up in front of her face in a gesture of greeting. In the myth (and in Euripedes' play), Alcestis is rescued from Death by Heracles. Other than on this vase, the wedding procession is only shown on fragments of an Attic Red-figured Loutrophoros (water-carrying vessel used during marriage and funeral rituals) in the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

This Attic Amphora was acquired from the Fleischman Collection for $400,000. The Fleischmans bought it from Fritz Burki, who had apparently acquired it directly or indirectly from people who had illegally excavated it from a site in central northern Italy. The amphora was returned to Italy as part of the repatriation of the 40 antiquities found to have been looted or smuggled from Italy.


Amphora Prize Vessel Athenian Games HS3651


Amphora Prize Vessel Athenian Games HS3651c

Prize Vessel from the Athenian Games, attributed to the Painter of the Wedding Procession,
Signed by Nikodemos, potter, Greek, Athens, 363-362 BC, terracotta (35.25 in. tall).

This Attic black-figure amphora is of a special shape, given as prizes in the Panathenaic Games. They contained the olive oil pressed from the fruit of the groves sacred to the goddess Athena. This amphora contains the first recorded inscription of the potter Nikodemos, and is the first securely-dated Panathenaic amphora which depicts Athena facing to the right. Both sides of the neck of the amphora are decorated with addorsed palmette friezes, below which are descending black tongues.

The Panathenaia, a state religious festival, honored Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. Held in its expanded form every four years, the festival included athletic, musical, and other competitions. Amphorae filled with oil pressed from olives from the sacred trees of Athena were given as prizes in the Panathenaic Games. These amphorae had a special form with narrow neck and foot and a standard fashion of decoration. One side showed Athena Promachos, the goddess of war, armed and striding forth between columns decorated with acanthus leaves surmounted by Nikai carrying torches and fillets, and included the inscription "from the games at Athens". The other side showed the event for which the vase was a prize. Leading vase-painters, commissioned by the state, decorated these vessels, which continued to be decorated in the black-figure technique long after it had gone out of fashion for other vases, probably due to religious conservatism. The same religious conservatism applied to the depiction of Athena.

On this example (which was restored from fragments and remarkably retains its intact lid), the figure of Athena is portrayed in an Archaistic or old-fashioned style on the front of the vessel. The Nike figures atop akanthos columns flanking Athena are a detail that allows scholars to date this vase precisely to 363/362 BC, as they are unique to those two years. The back of the amphora (which is pictured above) depicts Nike, the goddess of victory, crowning the winner of a boxing match with the victor's fillet, while an older bearded judge looks on from the right and the light-haired defeated opponent looks on from the left. The leather thongs held by the youths identify them as boxers; they were wrapped around the hands and served as the ancient equivalent of boxing gloves. In 370 BC the victor in youth boxing won forty amphorae of oil; the second place winner took home eight.


Kylix Boy Holding Lyre HS3618

Wine Cup with a Boy Holding a Lyre, Greek, Athens, c. 480 BC,
Signed by Douris, painter, attributed to Python, potter, Terracotta.

This is a moderately deep Attic red-figure cup with a plain rim and upturned handles, from the latter part of Douris’ career based upon the elements of the signature on the inside of the tondo. The tondo border is a pattern of a stopped meander alternating with a cross-square. There is a palmette and tendril configuration at each handle. The subject within the tondo is a bearded man and boy with a lyre. Both wear himations, the boy standing on the right with a tortoise-shell lyre in his left hand, his himation pulled up over his head, and his head lowered. The man stands on the left with his himation over his left shoulder, leaving his right shoulder and chest bare, leaning on a knotty staff. Behind the man is a diphros, its cushion decorated with cross-hatching.

Scenes of the daily lives of Athenian schoolboys decorate this red-figure cup. In addition to basic literacy and mathematics, Greek boys were trained in athletics and music. On the interior of the cup, a boy holding a lyre stands in front of a bearded man, who must be his music teacher. On the outside, men and boys form similar scenes. The imagined walls of the schoolroom are hung with musical instruments and athletic equipment: lyres, string bags with knucklebones, sponges, and aryballoi. The scenes on this cup are not purely educational, however. On one side of the vase, a boy holds a hare on his lap, while on the other, a man offers a hare to another boy. In addition to serving as a classroom, the gymnasion in its role as the center of Greek physical and intellectual life was also the center of romantic courtship. Hares were popular love gifts in the homosexual relationships between older men and boys favored by the Athenian aristocracy in the early 500s BC.


Lekythos Woman at her Toilette HS3999


Lekythos Woman at her Toilette HS3999c

Oil Jar with a Woman at Her Toilette, attributed to the Circle of the Phiale Painter, Greek, Athens, c. 450 BC, terracotta.

This Attic red-figure lekythos captures an intimate moment of a woman at her toilette. The nude woman glances back over her shoulder, momentarily turning her gaze from contemplating herself in the mirror. The unknown vase-painter included familiar household items, such as the small chest at the left and the kalathos, or wool basket, at the right. Scenes of a woman at her toilette are found in Athenian vase-painting from the early 500s BC on, but the women are usually clothed. The portrayal of this woman as nude may indicate that she is a hetaira, or prostitute. The use of added white paint for the woman's flesh (an unusual choice in red-figure pottery of the mid-400s BC) further emphasizes her nudity. This vase did not fire properly in the kiln. Much of its surface is a red-brown, rather than the standard deep black of Athenian pottery. The side of the lekythos to the right of the woman even has a "ghost" of a meander pattern band caused by touching another vase during firing.


Queen’s Vase with Berenike HS3623

Queen's Vase with Berenike II, Greek, Egypt, c. 243-221 BC, Egyptian faience.

A relief portrait of Berenike II, the queen of Egypt, decorates this fragmentary faience oinochoe or wine pitcher. Standing between an altar and a pillar, Berenike holds a cornucopia (a symbol of wealth and prosperity) and pours a libation or liquid offering to the gods from a phiale or shallow cup. An inscription in Greek over the altar reads, "To the good fortune of Queen Berenike." Berenike II (or Berenice II) was the wife of Ptolemy III Euergetes (Benefactor), who ruled from 246 to 221 BC as part of the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty which controlled Egypt in the Hellenistic period after the death of Alexander the Great. The city of Euesperides was refounded by her and received her name, Berenice (now the modern city of Benghazi).

Although its neck is missing, this vase is one of the best preserved examples of a class of offering vessels scholars call "Queen's vases." These faience oinochoai depicting Ptolemaic queens offering libations represent a fusion of the Greek and Egyptian elements that co-existed in Ptolemaic Egypt. Faience was a traditional Egyptian material for offering vessels, but the oinochoe shape, the subject matter, and the style of the depiction are Greek. Beginning in 285 BC Ptolemaic rulers were worshiped as gods, and these vases were connected with their cult. During religious festivals, these jugs would have held wine for libations in honor of the royal family.

Egyptian Faience is a sintered-quartz (finely-powdered quartz) glazed composition ceramic that displays a surface vitrification (glass-liquid transition) which creates a bright lustre of various colors (blue-green being the most common). Except for late period examples, Egyptian faience contains no clay so it is not properly pottery, and it is called Egyptian faience to avoid confusion with faience, a tin-glazed pottery associated with Faenza in Italy.


Roman Gold Beaker HS3757


Roman Gold Beaker 2177

Beaker, Roman, Knidos (Turkey), 1st century AD, gold.

The image at the left was taken at the Getty Villa, the one at the right at the Getty Center before the beaker was moved.

Reportedly found by a sponge fisherman off the west coast of Turkey in the early 1900s, this beaker is one of only six gold vessels known to have survived since antiquity. The graceful solid gold beaker rises from a small flanged foot in a deep, subtly convex curve to a slightly flared rim with two incised lines. An inscription on the underside of the foot records the weight of the beaker as two libra, one sescunsia (24.54 ounces). The actual weight is 23.15 ounces, indicating that the vessel may have once had a lid. In the Classical world, gold represented divine and secular power, and its display symbolized authority.


Volute Krater Adonis Aphrodite Persephone HS4149


Volute Krater Adonis Aphrodite Persephone HS4143

Mixing Vessel with Adonis, Aphrodite, and Persephone, attributed to the Meleager Painter,
Greek, Athens, 390-380 BC, terracotta Volute Krater with Stand (21.375 in. tall).

On one side of the neck of this krater, Adonis, a god of vegetation, reclines on a couch between Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Persephone, the queen of the underworld, and their female attendants. According to myth, Aphrodite fell in love with the beautiful mortal youth Adonis. Shortly after, he was killed in a hunting accident. Aphrodite was so distraught that Zeus, the king of the gods, made Adonis immortal, allowing him to leave Hades, the underworld of the dead, for part of the year to be with Aphrodite. He always, however, had to return to Hades, where he was Persephone's lover. This cycle of death and rebirth was linked with the regeneration of vegetation and the crop seasons in ancient Greece. Originating in the Near East, the cult of Adonis was introduced to Athens in about 440 BC; its devotees were exclusively female.

he black-glazed body of this krater is fluted in imitation of metallic prototypes. The fluting is interrupted at the shoulder by an olive wreath in relief, which preserves traces of the original gilding. The molded handles spring from high-relief protomes of Ethiopians on the shoulder of the vessel to form elaborate volutes. The flanges of the handles and the outer rings of the volutes are decorated in red-figure technique with myrtle, with gilded relief berries between the leaves. In the oculi of the volutes, within a ring of red-figure enclosed palmettes, are small gilded female heads molded in relief. Large openwork scrolls with attached leaves fill the spaces between the handles and the painted neck and rim. Beneath the painted kymation on the rim of the krater, palmette patterns decorate the mouth. Smaller bands of florals separate the palmette-lotus patterns from the figural scenes on either side of the neck.

The other side of the krater's neck shows a scene from a symposium, or drinking party, in which three male couples recline on couches. On the sides of the stand, a scene of Dionysos reclining with attendants mirrors the scene with Adonis above. A hunt scene with real and mythological animals covers the top of the stand. The stand is more elaborately decorated with red-figured scenes and patterns than the krater.


Volute Krater Adonis Aphrodite Persephone HS4149c


Volute Krater Adonis Aphrodite Persephone HS4143c

Detail from the base of the krater to the top, showing the fluting, volutes, palmettes and figures from two angles.

The form of this monumental vase, a volute-krater resting on a separately  made stand, is exceptional. The combination of ribbing on the body of  the vase and red-figure decoration is quite rare in Athenian pottery.  Indeed, many aspects of this vase are more typical of the Greek colonies in South Italy than in Athens, perhaps indicating that this vase was  meant to look South Italian or even made for export to that area.


Volute Krater Apollo and Artemis HS4153

Mixing Vessel with Apollo and Artemis, attributed to the Palermo Painter,
Greek, Lucania, South Italy, about 415-400 BC, terracotta Volute Krater (22 in. tall).

A fine example of Lucanian ceramics, this is the only volute krater that can currently be attributed to the Palermo Painter.

A gathering of deities decorates the front of this red-figure volute krater, made in a Greek colony in the region of Lucania in southern Italy. The twin gods Apollo and Artemis occupy the center of the scene. Apollo holds a kithara, denoting his role as god of music, and Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, is accompanied by her sacred deer. Their mother Leto stands at the right. On the left, the god Hermes leans on a pillar inscribed with his name, which represents either a boundary marker or a goalpost. Two pairs of youths stand conversing on the back of the vase.

The top of the lip is reserved. On it is an egg-and-dot pattern, and under the lip are enclosed upright palmettes. A black relief border runs between narrow reserved lines with a pink wash. On the neck, side A shows a laurel wreath to the right, with pointed leaves and added red stems. On side B is a veined laurel wreath with berries on the right, also with pointed leaves. The berries and leaf stems are painted pink. Both wreaths appear between narrow reserved lines, the lower one inset. On the shoulder are tongues between reserved lines. Below the scenes on the body is a meander band, groups of two, three, and four interrupted by crossed squares with a black dot in each corner. The edge of the foot is reserved, with a narrow black line, and the underside is reserved. The volutes have a central vent hole. On the flange are black ivy leaves on both sides of a wavy stem. Under each handle are enclosed palmettes, superposed tip to tip, surrounded by spirals, two horizontal palmette fans and side scrolls. Under the root of each handle is a small enclosed hanging palmette.

The volute krater was a large serving vessel used to mix wine and water at a symposium or drinking party. Large symposium vessels like this one began to be produced in the Greek colonies in Italy in the late 400s B.C. Before this time, the colonists had simply imported their fine pottery from Athens, but at this time local painted pottery workshops emerged. Proportionally few vases made in Lucania, the "toe" of Italy, have survived.


Six-Sided Bottle and Jar with Pentagonal Designs HS3996

Six-sided Bottle (Unguentarium), Gallo-Roman, 200-250 AD, bronze and mosaic millefiori enamel.

An unusual footed vessel with its handle attached to two plates which are secured with braces to the bottle lip. The knobbed lid swings from a hinge which is mounted on the lip. The six sides are constructed from trapezoidal bronze panels which are soldered together and set on a tall foot. Mosaic glass in the millefiori floral design is fused into recesses in each side panel and around the neck of the bottle. The central horizontal panels have decayed and discolored, but the upper and lower panels on each side are blue glass with tiny white rosettes. Around the neck, the inner band of blue glass and white rosettes is again intact, while the outer band is decayed and discolored. The hexagonal construction and millefiori enameling are typical of Gaul and the Rhineland, and since remains of a millefiori workshop were found near Anthée, Belgium (near Namur), it may have been made there. The Frankish invasions of the mid-third century ended this sort of millefiori enameling, and set the terminal date.

Aryballos Jar (Unguentarium), Gallo-Roman, 70-100 AD, bronze with red and blue champlevé enamel.

Shaped like the Archaic Greek Aryballos with a Roman Imperial handle, this unguentarium was also possibly made in the same workshop in Anthée, as there are a number of similar bronze vessels with champlevé enamel (and one specific casserole with pentagonal panels) from northern Gaul, and two pentagonal paneled bowls in Namur, Belgium which have been ascribed to that workshop. The pentagonal patterns on the casserole, bowls and aryballos date them relatively early, as these patterns were most common during the Hellenistic period through the 1st c. AD. A similar pitcher was found at Pompeii (buried in 79 AD).

This is a rather heavy vessel, and as the neck, mouth and handle are weakly attached to the aryballos, it is likely that it was never carried by the handle. These elements are detachable and merely for show (the entire vessel may have been for show). The handle has a pattern of enameled squares flanked by triangles. The top of the rim has a row of alternate red and blue triangles and a laurel wreath on the side. The body of the aryballos is covered with 12 pentagonal panels, each with an inner scroll border with a red central pentagon enclosing a roundel. The roundels contain either a bird or a rosette (except for one radiate crown of triangular teardrops on the bottom). The opening of the vase is in the roundel of the top pentagon (the neck covers part of the pentagon's enamel when in position). This aryballos does not have a base, which is unusual in Roman aryballoi.


Handle in Shape of a Lasa HS4172


Incense Burner Nike HS3812

Patera Handle in the form of a Winged Goddess (probably Lasa), Etruscan, 350-300 BC, bronze.

Etruscan artists often created handles for vessels depicting human figures. This winged girl served as the handle for a patera (a shallow libation dish generally used to pour water over the hands before a sacrifice or over the body while bathing), which was attached by a soft solder to the curved plate with two rosettes atop her head. The entire handle is cast solid in one piece except for the wings, which were separately cast and attached with a rivet (the feathers are incised on the front only). The girl stands on a triangular base with her left leg slightly forward and relaxed in a contrapposto pose, and her right arm is raised with the hand resting on her head. She is nude except for soft high-tongued slippers, a thick plaited-chain necklace with a central bulla and two semilunate pendants framing her breasts, and a bracelet on her upper left arm.

The relaxed curve of the body and the nudity is typical of the style of 4th century BC Greek sculptors, but unlike many Greek works which depicted nude females with a more voluptuous, sensual body type, this girl's lean muscularity, with narrow hips and small breasts is more similar to the contemporary aesthetics used for figures of nude young men. The nudity, wings and the perfume flask (alabastron) held in the left hand indicate that this is probably a Lasa, an Etruscan deity corresponding to Greek Nymphs who is associated with Turan, the Etruscan goddess of Love.

Thymiaterion (Incense Burner) Supported by Nike, Greek, Taras, South Italy, c. 500-480 BC, terracotta and pigment.

Nike, the winged goddess of Victory, acts as a caryatid supporting the bowl of a thymiaterion (incense burner) and its egg-shaped openwork lid, on which a dove is perched. Nike gestures with her right hand while pulling her garment to the side with her left. Traces of the original pink, purple, red and blue pigments which originally decorated this terracotta figure still remain. The pose and costume are identical with contemporary large-scale marble statues of young women from the late Archaic period which are known as korai. The inside of the bowl shows no sign of burning, so this may have been placed unused into a tomb.

Taras, an ancient Greek colony, was a coastal city in Apulia, southern Italy (modern Taranto), and was the center of a thriving Greek pottery industry a century later, during the 4th century BC. Most of the works from Taras were large, elaborate red-figured vessels for mortuary use, such as volute kraters, loutrophoroi, paterai, etc.


Applique with Ceres HS3744

Fragmentary Applique with Ceres, Roman, 100-200 AD, silver.

A bust of Ceres decorates this silver applique which may have been attached to a chest. A mother goddess of agriculture, grain crops and fertility and counterpart to the Greek Demeter, she is surrounded by her attributes. On her right is a basket of flowers which symbolizes the bountiful earth, and on her left are a scepter and a torch. Ceres’ name is the root for the word cereal.


Helmet Ankle Guards Mask Shield HS3676


Corinthian Helmet HS3678

An Apulo-Corinthian Helmet, ankle guards, shield and mask on display at the Getty Villa.

Apulo-Corinthian Helmet, Greek, South Italy, 400-375 BC, bronze.

This form of Greek helmet is called Apulo-Corinthian, a variation of the standard Corinthian helmet used in the Greek colonies in Apulia. Three attachments on the top of the helmet originally held decoration, probably horsehair crests, feathers, or metal animal horns. Low holes on either side of the helmet held a chinstrap, and a hole in the back of the helmet may have been used to hang it for storage or display. Several characteristics demonstrate that this helmet was not meant to enclose the head as functional armor. The eyeholes are too small and close together, and there are no openings for the mouth or for the ears. The elaborate incised decoration that covers the surface further supports the notion of the helmet's ceremonial function.

The decoration enhances anatomical features on the front of the helmet. Lotus buds spring from the outer corners of the eyes and extend on the sides of the helmet. Arching from the corner of the eyes towards the center of the forehead, over the repoussé brows, hanging ringlets represent curling locks of hair. Iconography connecting the helmet with a funerary use also appears prominent: a sphinx wearing a diadem occupies each cheekpiece, and two reclining satyrs flank a kantharos on the back. The sphinxes, satyrs, and kantharos all had funerary associations.


Corinthian Helmet HS3678c

Detail of some of the incised patterns on the Apulo-Corinthian Helmet.

There were numerous forms of helmets that were used in the Greek world... the Corinthian helmet covered almost the entire head and could be pushed up and worn like a cap. Based upon archaeological evidence, it was the most popular helmet style during the Archaic and Classical periods, gradually giving way to the more open Thracian and Chalkidian (Chalcidian) helmet.


Chalkidian Helmet HS3673

Griffin Protome Helmet of Chalkidian (Chalcidian) Shape, South Italy, 350-300 BC, bronze.

This helmet, with its elaborate decoration of repoussé and engraved designs, is a variation of the Chalkidian (or Chalcidian) type of helmet made in South Italy. The Chalkidian helmet was lighter and less cumbersome than other Greek helmets, generally taking the form of a cap meant to follow the shape of the skull with a neckguard turned up at the bottom (often with a flange in front to protect the nose), and is distinguished by its hinged cheekpieces. The name derives from depictions on pottery once thought to have come from the ancient city of Chalcis or Chalkidia on the Greek island of Euboea. It is not known whether the helmets (or even the pottery) was actually Chakidian.

The decoration of this example includes a griffin protome on the crest. The brow of the helmet depicts a diadem decorated with a ten-petaled rosette, flanked by curling tendrils and locks of hair surrounding it. Relief lines below the locks suggest eyebrows. The cheekguards, damaged with some restoration, are decorated with strands of beard and an animal, perhaps a goat. An attached visor is typical for a Chalkidian helmet. The attachments for the missing visor on this helmet are in the large volutes above the ear holes and the small ring on the forehead. Stylized griffin wings stand free of the helmet above the ear holes, attached to the large volutes. The spring-like coils just inside the wings originally would have held feather plumes.

Helmets with griffin protomes are usually associated with gods and heroes. This extensively decorated helmet probably was not used as battle armor, but may have served a ceremonial function.


Earrings Nike HS4010

Earrings with Nike Pendants, Hellenistic Greek, 225-175 BC, gold and glass

Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory with her spread wings and windblown drapery, form the primary decoration of these Hellenistic gold earrings. The two figures are mirror images of each other, assembled hollow by hammering sheet gold over a form (earlier Nike earring figures were cast by the lost-wax process). The sheet gold wings are edged by spirally beaded wire, and the feathers are filigree-outlined compartments originally filled with colored enamel, some of which remains. Each figure carries a torch decorated with spirally beaded wire, ending in a flame-shaped setting for colored glass or stone. The disks are bordered with small outward-radiating petals, with a large palmette at the top of filigree-outlined lobes which may have originally been enameled, and a pear-shaped central setting which originally held a stone. In the center of each disk is a concave saucer holding an attached rosette with two layers of petals, the inner set of which are heart-shaped with surface granulation. In the center of each flower is a carnelian-colored glass bead held in by a gold pin with a granulated head.

Earrings of this type, with a figural pendant hanging from a decorated rosette disk and a U-shaped hook, were popular from the second half of the 4th century BC. The technical and stylistic features of this pair date them to the late 200s to early 100s BC.


Hairnet Ptolemaic HS4020


Hairnet Ptolemaic HS4020c

Hairnet with Aphrodite and Eros, Ptolemaic Greek, Alexandria, Egypt, 220-100 BC, gold, garnet and glass paste.

The hairnet above and the diadem below are part of an assemblage of gold jewelry which included gold disk pendant earrings of Eros, a pair of gold bracelets with coiled snakes, gold rings with Artemis and Fortuna carnelian intaglio insets, and a group of beads, all of which are not pictured. This group of gold jewelry may have belonged to a wealthy woman in Ptolemaic Egypt. The conquest of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great made vast resources of gold available for the first time in the Greek world, and this new abundance of gold led to the creation of large amounts of gold jewelry available to members of the royal courts of Alexander’s successors, including the court of the Ptolemies in Egypt.

Very few gold hairnets have survived from antiquity. This example, made to be worn over a bun at the back of a head, is remarkable for the quality and degree of its elaboration. The hairnet consists of four elements: the medallion, the tassels and chains, the net, and the circular base. The medallion bears a bust of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, accompanied by her son Eros at her shoulder, surrounded by bands of filigree. Tassels strung with beads of glass paste, garnet and moonstone on long chains hang from the medallion and clasp. The net itself consists of bands of gold chains sheathed in gold spool beads, a typical Hellenistic design, linked by crossed chains decorated with Dionysiac masks. The circular base is embellished with a large Herakles knot, floral tendrils, ivy leaves, and berries.

Certain elements of the hairnet's decoration seem to have had a close connection to the Ptolemies, the ruling family of Hellenistic Egypt. Aphrodite was considered the divine equivalent of many Ptolemaic queens, and the woman on this hairnet bears a resemblance to portraits of Queen Arsinoe III. The Ptolemies also considered Dionysos and Herakles to be their divine ancestors. Although such associations do not necessarily mean that this jewelry was made for the royal family, they point to Ptolemaic Egypt as the hairnet's country of origin.


Diadem Ptolemaic HS4012

Diadem, Ptolemaic Greek, Alexandria, Egypt, 220-100 BC, gold, pearl, carnelian, garnet and glass paste.

Worn over a high, upswept hairstyle, this diadem is decorated with jewels and gold filigree designs. Composed of three hinged pieces, the diadem was fastened by means of a cord or ribbon that would have been threaded through the loops on the back, allowing for an adjustable fit. This type of headdress, unknown in Greece before Alexander, was adopted directly from Persia.


Diadem Ptolemaic HS4012c

The central piece is decorated with a large Herakles knot which was originally inlaid with garnets. Adapted
from Egyptian imagery, the magical Herakles knot was one of the most popular designs in Hellenistic jewelry.


Diadem Ptolemaic HS4015

Intricately filigreed flaming torches surrounded by running spirals and floral decoration adorn the two
sides which are made from sheet gold. The torches were made separately and attached to the backing.


Diadem Ptolemaic HS4017

Tassels, several of which are now missing, hang from the front and sides of the diadem and would have dangled on the wearer's brow and temples. Each tassel consists of a gold disk made to receive a white glass paste inlay, a group of blue and white disks sandwiched together, and four chains, each ending in a gemstone bead of a different color.


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