Niobids sarcophagus Wilton House inspiring renaissance-artists

Hi Everyone, I’m very happy to see you are back for more reading about art and history in 2016!

Last year I wrote about Niobe and a broken sarcophagus and how I thought it was sad that we may never know how the whole design looked like before it became so damaged, but now I found even older sarcophagi that shows what the whole design was supposed to look like:

broken sarcophagus

But now I found more artworks with that design on them:

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Roman marble sarcophagus, 2nd half of the 2nd century CE. Legato Giovanni Grimaldi, Venice, National Archaeological Museum

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detail sarcophagus

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close-up Niobe sarcophagus


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Roman Sarcophagus from ca 175 CE – 250 CE Vatican city, Museo Vaticani.

And this Roman sarcophagus from the early 3th century in the Wilton House:

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This last sarcophagus is the most important one, because that one was already known during the renaissance and therefor the one that got copied the most, because during the renaissance anything ancient (roman or greek) was hip.

During most of medieval times people weren’t very interested in either Greek or Roman stuff mainly because the church didn’t approve of it since it was heathen art. The church naturally only purchased art that helped to spread their religion. But from the 14th to 17th century we got the renaissance time where people got much more interested in ancient roman and ancient greek culture. They also got interested in philosophy, Greek and roman myths and other classics, their art and their architecture.

So at the end of the 15th century more than 12oo years between 1491- 1509 later a pupil to Ghirlandaio sketched the Wilton House sarcophagus.

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15th century sketch after the Niobids sarcophagus of Wilton House, Wiltshire. Now in Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El escorial.

Italian artist Pirro Ligori made several sketches that were based on the Wilton House sarcophagus even though he played around with the composition:

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Pirro Ligori, 16th century

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Pirro Ligori, 16th century.

Another Italian artist, Girolama da Carpi, made a sketch of it in the first half of the 16th century.

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Sketch of Wilton House Sarcophagus by Girolamo da Carpi, 16th century, British Museum, London.

An Italian artist made a sketch between 1550-1555. It is now in staatsbibliotek, Berlin.


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I really like how this old design of the 1th century got in and out of fashion several times. Its funny how there is this gap of more than 1200 years where people just weren’t interested at all in ancient Greek and Ancient Roman culture and all of a sudden it was all the rage.

Makes you wonder what new trends we will see in 2016 :).

Good night my friends, Hilde








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