Rare ancient funerary plaque with corrections goes to auction
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, July 25, 2024

Rare ancient funerary plaque with corrections goes to auction
Translated into English, the text reads, To the Manes of Cossutius Severus. To her well-deserving patron Cossutia Thallusa [made this sepulcher] in which two ossuary urns given as a gift by Tiberius Claudius Epitynchanus are [stored]

LONDON.- Christie’s of London will feature a 2,000-year-old Roman memorial tablet at its July 3rd sale of antiquities. The plaque, which is inscribed in Latin on each side, is remarkable for the corrections chiseled into one of the inscriptions. It was recently the subject of a scholarly article and international news story. It is estimated to sell for £7,000-9,000 ($8,900-11,000).

Writing in a recent issue of the Germany-based Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (Journal of Papyrology and Epigraphy), Riccardo Bertolazzi, an Italian-born classicist and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, describes the hitherto unpublished stone as having come from an Augustan-age underground columbarium (where cremated remains of pagan Romans were stored). Such stones were usually inscribed on one side only, but the object of this study is “opisthographic,” or two-sided.

In his article, “An Unpublished Opisthographic Funerary Plaque and Some Comments on the Mistakes of One of its Stonecutters,” Bertolazzi identifies two clearly different inscriptions with different writing styles, underscoring what he believes is a one- to two-century time difference. “The different shapes of the letters incised on the obverse and the reverse of this artefact show that some time elapsed between the two engravings.”

The earlier—first-century—inscription memorializes two women, possibly of the same household, but offers little additional information. In its brevity, it is a rare example. “To my knowledge, there is only one other known documented inscription with text that bears a close resemblance to the epitaph of Restuta and Faustina [the two women named],” Bertolazzi writes.

What intrigued Bertolazzi more than the uncommon two-sided inscriptions were the corrections on the reverse of the stone. The re-engraved efforts on the part of the stonecutter to cover up his mistakes are exceptional. “Such a meticulous attempt to correct an epigraphic text is not very common,” Bertolazzi observes. The story that unfolds from the corrected text also provides a fascinating glimpse into early Roman life, one that reveals the quasi-marital relationship between a master and his former slave.

Translated into English, the text reads, “To the Manes of Cossutius Severus. To her well-deserving patron Cossutia Thallusa [made this sepulcher] in which two ossuary urns given as a gift by Tiberius Claudius Epitynchanus are [stored].”

After careful examination, Bertolazzi discovered that the first two lines had originally read, “To the Manes of both Cossutius Severus and Cossutia Thallusa, the wife . . .” The stonecutter hadn’t finished the word “wife” before he realized he had made some mistakes and started to make corrections. The changes he made reflected his new knowledge that Thallusa was still alive, and not, in fact, the wife of Severus, but his slave. “Severus had manumitted Thallusa . . . and taken her as his quasi-marital partner,” Bertolazzi writes. He clarifies that “The Manes” referred to in the text are the spirits of the relatives of the deceased. In the underworld, they were supposed to “welcome” the people who had died.

Bertolazzi makes the point that Romans were generally open to the idea of integrating former slaves into their society, regardless of their ethnic origin. “Thallusa bears a Greek personal name, but this doesn’t necessarily imply that she was from Greece; sometimes we find slaves of African, Celtic, or even German origin with Greek names. Also, some famous Romans descended from freed slaves. One of these was the poet Horace.”

The tablet has been consigned by Victor Gulotta, a Boston-area collector who has placed a number of his antiquities and manuscripts in museums around the world. An earlier first-century Roman memorial tablet from his collection is now in the permanent collection of the RD Milns Antiquities Museum at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, where it was featured in the exhibition, “A Study in Stone: The History of Epigraphy.”

“This plaque from the Victor Gulotta Collection is a valuable addition to the Roman inscriptions stored in North American collections,” Bertolazzi writes. “The last unpublished funerary plaques that ended up in US collections appeared in the 1980s, so this one is particularly welcome. I hope more private collectors decide to share their artefacts so they do not escape scholarly attention.”

Today's News

June 23, 2019

Exhibition at the Fonds Helene et Edouard Leclerc focuses on cabinets of curiosities

Exhibition explores 300 years of lunar and celestial cartography

Yorkshire Sculpture Park opens a major exhibition of over 40 works by David Smith

Mexican artisans want credit for designs behind Carolina Herrera dresses

New Bouguereau exhibition reexamines artist's popularity in Gilded Age America

Exhibition highlights a selection of contemporary artists who work with ceramics

Lehmann Maupin opens a group exhibition that spans both of the gallery's Chelsea locations

Rare ancient funerary plaque with corrections goes to auction

Major art exhibition addresses representations of the global refugee crisis

Thought-provoking Jim Carrey exhibition opens at the Phi Centre as a world premiere

James Cohan opens an exhibition of new paintings by Scott Olson

Frist Art Museum opens "Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s"

Georgia Museum of Art displays minimal works in "Color, Form and Light"

Stephen Shore curates show of his Bard students at Howard Greenberg Gallery

Museum of Cycladic Art presents a rare and original exhibition entitled Picasso and Antiquity: Line and Clay

Hake's July 10-11 auction a pop culture feast with rare original comic art, comic books, Star Wars & more

Material Culture Auctions sets record prices for Outsider Art

Fashion world shaken by cultural appropriation claims

Bolshoi ballet star pays tribute to Coco Chanel in new show

Tretyakov Gallery opens exhibition program at a brand new venue

High Museum of Art celebrates Maira Kalman's book art with summer retrospective

Eat like the locals: How scurvy undid last crusader king

Exhibition of new work by Anne-Karin Furunes opens at Ryan Lee

Olivia Newton-John's Grease leather jacket and pants + more head to Julien's Auctions

How accurate is zodiac compatibility

3 Lessons from J.K. Rowling to Make Your Writing Richer

Tips and suggestions for paper writing

Here are your new income tax slab brackets for 2019

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful