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Home > Auctions > 5th December 2023 > Roman Lead Coffin Lid with Ivy and Floral Motifs

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LOT 0160

GBP (£) 1,800 - 2,400
EUR (€) 2,080 - 2,770
USD ($) 2,290 - 3,050

Opening Bid
£1,000 (EUR 1,156; USD 1,270) (‡+bp*)

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Bids: 0
67 1/2 in. (38.5 kg, 175.5 cm).

Decorated with stamped patterns comprising dolphins, vegetal and floral patterns, motifs with ivy leaves and floral border strips with laurel leaves.

Acquired 1970s-early 1990s.
Property of a North American collector.
London collection, 2016.

This lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by search certificate no.11992-209844.

See for a similar specimen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession no.31.116a-i; Penn Museum, coffin panel B10280, from Lebanon (Tyre); see also Rahmani, L.Y., ‘Lead Coffins from Israel’ in Israel Exploration Journal, vol.37, no.2/3 (1987), pp.123-146, pls.10,11,14.

Although the majority of people were buried without coffins, there is evidence for wooden coffins, lead-framed wooden coffins, tile burials, lead coffins and stone coffins from the Roman Empire. Our typology belongs a type diffused in the Eastern Mediterranean. The leaves refer to actual garlands and flowers used to decorate tombs and altars. The dolphin was considered to ferry the souls of the dead to the afterlife and was a common motif in this period, also used for the slide-fitting of Roman sword scabbards. Romans believed these animals carried souls to the
Fortunate Isles, perhaps because they could pass through the air-breathing terrestrial world and into the watery depths that claimed so many Roman sailors’ lives. This symbol would have had a personal significance for the deceased, who may have been a seafarer during life. Romans often ordered their lead coffins long before they died as the process of making them took a long time.