Niobe Munich glyptotek sarcophagus

The story of Niobe and her children is quite old and thankfully it survived in some old artworks as well. (If you want to know more about who Niobe was you can look here Niobe ) Last post I mentioned that there were some old fresco from Pompeii in Naples with the attack on Niobe’s children from the 1st century CE. (Look for it here Fresco )

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One of the artworks that is almost as old as that fresco is this sarcophagus from 150-160 CE.  It commemorates the slaughter of Niobe’s children. The sarcophagus is now in Museo Pio-Clementino (Vatican City).

Sarcophagi were grave-monuments that would mark the grave of a wealthy person. The more detailed the sarcophagus the more money it costed to have it designed and build.

The story of Niobe is a good idea for a theme because there are a lot of people mentioned in the story which helps the artist to create a busy scene and thus rake in more money. The family probably liked the idea because they could identify with Niobe who lost her children and was mourning them.

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This is one of the daughters that got killed by Diana in the upper part of the work.


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Details of the sons of Niobe that got killed by Apollo

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Details of the sons of Niobe that got killed by Apollo

Details of the sons of Niobe that got killed by Apoll. Here we can even see Apollo’s bow. Apollo is cruel like death is cruel. He doesn’t spare the son even though he clearly shows that he is unarmed and not agressive.

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Details of the sons of Niobe that got killed by Apollo

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Here we even see a very young child in the middle of all the chaos. A reminder that death spares no one not even innocent little children.

Considering how old the sarcophagus is and what tools they had back than the level of details on the sarcophagus  is quite amazing. You can easily see what emotions Niobe’s children show with their body-language and facial expression.

What is even more amazing though is how this old sarcophagus from 150-160 CE has inspired other artists throughout centuries. Despite my studies of art history on university it took me awhile before I started to see the pattern here. I watched many art works with Niobe and her children the last couple of weeks produced in different times and in different countries and in many different styles so in the beginning I didn’t see any pattern whatsoever except for the obvious thing they had incoming:  that they were all about Niobe and her children. But today it occurred to me that some of them looked more than just a bit alike. When I looked at them again I realized that 3 of them were almost identical in composition even though the material and style were a bit different!

All artworks look a bit different of course but their composition all look similar to this:

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sarcophagus munich glyptotek


and like this Roman sarcophagus from 1st-2nd century:

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Bonam noctem mea amici, Hilde




One thought on “Niobe Munich glyptotek sarcophagus

  1. Pingback: Niobe and her children on a broken sarcophagus (2) | hemmahoshilde

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