Niobe and her children on a broken sarcophagus

Last time I wrote about a pretty old yet neat sarcophagus that was almost 2000 year old but looked still really good. Here I found part of a sarcophagus that is from the same century, 2th century AD, but this one is clearly in worse shape and most of the sarcophagus is missing all together. To compare with the other sarcophagus look here:  sarcophagus .

This is more what I imagine a really old sarcophagus from Rome would look like. This sarcophagus is in Rhode Island School of Design Museum.

On the lid of the sarcophagus, Apollo stands at left and Diana at right, both taking aim at the persons portrayed in the scene below. Between them are Olympian deities, including the central figure of Zeus, king of the gods. To the left of Zeus, Athena stands with Apollo and Diana, depicted as children.

RISDM 21-074

niobe 44

niobe 45


On either end of the relief is a bearded male head with an open mouth and wings in his hair. The heads may be personifications of the winds, but their meaning remains unclear.

niobe 55

It’s a bit sad to see pretty art that is broken. It often makes me wonder how it got broken, whether it was intentionally damaged, inevitable damage (worn down), clumsiness or what.

little update:

When I wrote this post a couple of days ago I thought it was sad that I didn’t know how the whole design would have looked like, because the sarcophagus is so damaged and incomplete, but now I found some art works that have much in common with this sarcophagus and now I have a much better idea of what the whole design would have looked like :).

Nowadays it is a bit frowned upon to take other peoples art and copy it or even borrowing someone else’ s composition to give it your own twist, but if there hadn’t been artists doing just that some lost art would have never been remembered at all. Now at least its possible to reconstruct how the art work originally most likely looked like. Besides they say that imitation is the highest form of flattery.

This sarcophagus looks much like the broken one but dates from 138 CE and is Roman:

niobe 62


niobe 37

Its easy to see how this Roman sarcophagus could have been the inspiration for the broken one if you look how alike they are in composition.

And it doesn’t stop there. I have found several different art works now where this composition shows up so thats what I’m going to right about next time.


Bonam noctem mea amici, Hilde






One thought on “Niobe and her children on a broken sarcophagus

  1. Pingback: Niobids sarcophagus Wilton House inspiring renaissance-artists | hemmahoshilde

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