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LOT 0359

Sold for (Inc. bp): £59,520

64 1/2 x 37 1/2" (400+ kg, 164 x 95cm including stand).

An imposing rectangular monument, commissioned by a noble woman named Kallisti (meaning ‘the most beautiful’) in honour of her late husband, a senator named Apellinarius, son of Apellinarius, the priest of Apollo; the carved surface divided into three panels, surmounted by a triangular pediment enclosing the head of a female with long, braided hair, possibly Persephone, Queen of Hades, executed in Eastern provincial style, with the facial features simply carved, including large, almond-shaped eyes and a small, smiling mouth.

Upper Panel: within a rectangular frame inscribed top and bottom with Greek text, the facing portraits of Apellinarius and Kallisti depicted as equals, side-by-side, Apellinarius with wavy hair incised in stylised curls and a simple tunic with a wide, v-shaped collar and Kallisti shown as a commanding middle-aged matrona with the veil indicating married status falling from her voluminous hairstyle and draped around her shoulders; to the far left of the frame, a hand, carved in shallow relief within a square border.

Central Panel: also enclosed within bands of text, a conventional, stylised funerary scene in shallow relief, Apellinarius reclining on a high bed, wearing a heavily-draped toga supporting himself with his left hand, and holding a laurel wreath aloft in his right, Kallisti behind him in a similar pose with veil; to the far left a young man holding a bird in his right hand (a symbol of youth, vigour and attractiveness), possibly the couple's son, mourning his father and preparing to take his place as the male head of household; beneath the bed a small, highly stylised female slave wearing a peplos, her unveiled hair pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck, carrying a cup to the offering table.

Lower Panel: eight lines of Greek text, with a ninth incised on the frame below, reading 'And as ... we disagree ... Gods of the underworld upon the earth rooted ... Kallisti of Bithys constructed this monument to herself and the senator Apellinarius, son of Apellinarius the good/worthy senator and priest of the god Apollo who lived twenty years out of his own means and who everyone saw caused no public expense, and if anyone is caught doing something against these [people or things], may he be brought to justice and fined 5000 denarii for impiety, and payable to the Imperial Treasury.’; mounted on a custom-made stand.

Property of a London gentleman; formerly in a private collection since the early 1970s; previously acquired on the London art market in 1970.

Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate.

This piece shows compositional similarities with the late second-century AD funerary relief of Neiki, wife of Onesimos, from the Roman province of Macedonia, displayed in the Archaeological Museum, Thessaloniki.The unusually large size and intricate relief sculpture attest to the family's high status as stalwarts of the provincial élite.

The disembodied hand on the left of the panel was almost certainly intended to have an apotropaic function, protecting the family from evil in this world and the next. This symbol can be traced as far back as ancient Mesopotamia, and retains its meaning to this day in the form of the hamsa and 'hand of Fatima' motifs popular in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.

The female slave shown smaller than the offering table denotes the family's status and wealth, and the slave's lowly social status. Across the Roman Empire, following earlier Classical Greek conventions, it was considered a matter of prestige to display a slave on one’s funerary stela; the fact that the enslaved person was supposedly willing to mourn her master attested to the deceased’s generosity and clemency.

The translation of the Greek text is provided by R. Falkiner.