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Lot n° 7

Sarcophagus fragment; Roman Empire, 3rd century...

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Sarcophagus fragment; Roman Empire, 3rd century AD. Alabaster. Measurements: 56 x 24 cm. Fragment of Roman sarcophagus of oriental style, carved in half bulk in alabaster and dated in the 3rd century A.D. It represents a female figure standing, naked, with the left arm bent and supported on the hip and the left arm extended to the side. At the feet of the figure we see a vessel with a balustered body. The woman appears standing on an architectural base supported by straight corbels, reminiscent of a classical entablature. The composition is topped by an upper frieze with a relief representation of a fantastic animal in profile, a hybrid beast with the wings and hindquarters of a lion, depicted in an expressive position with its head turned backwards, thanks to the stylized snake neck, which defines an elegant curve. The Romans brought two important novelties to the world of sculpture: the portrait and the historical relief, neither of which existed in the Greek world. However, they followed Greek models for much of their sculptural production, a base that in Rome would be combined with the Etruscan tradition. After the first contacts with the Greece of classicism through the colonies of Magna Graecia, the Romans conquered Syracuse in 212 BC, a rich and important Greek colony located in Sicily, adorned with a large number of Hellenistic works. The city was sacked and its artistic treasures taken to Rome, where the new style of these works soon replaced the Etruscan-Roman tradition that had prevailed until then. Shortly afterwards, in 133 B.C., the Empire inherited the kingdom of Pergamon, where there was an original and thriving school of Hellenistic sculpture. The huge Pergamon Altar, the "Gallus committing suicide" or the dramatic group "Laocoön and his sons" were three of the key creations of this Hellenistic school. On the other hand, after Greece was conquered in 146 B.C. most Greek artists settled in Rome, and many of them devoted themselves to making copies of Greek sculptures, very fashionable at that time in the capital of the Empire. Thus, numerous copies of Praxiteles, Lysippus and classical works of the 5th century B.C. were produced, giving rise to the Neo-Attic school of Rome, the first neoclassical movement in the History of Art. However, between the end of the 2nd century BC and the beginning of the 1st century BC there was a change in this purist Greek trend, which culminated in the creation of a national school of sculpture in Rome, from which emerged works such as the Altar of Aenobarbus, which already introduced a typically Roman narrative concept, which would become a chronicle of daily life and, at the same time, of the success of its political model. This school will be the precursor of the great imperial art of Augustus, in whose mandate Rome became the most influential city of the Empire and also the new center of Hellenistic culture, as Pergamon and Alexandria had been before, attracting a large number of Greek artists and craftsmen. In the Augustan era Rome contributed to the continuity and renewal of a tradition that had already enjoyed centuries of prestige, and which had dictated the character of all the art of the area. In this new stage, Greek aesthetics and technique will be applied to the themes of this new Rome. After the idealization of the Augustan era, the realism of the Flavian era and the subsequent baroque style of the second and third centuries, Roman sculpture, marked by the presence of Christianity, tended to dehumanize, to become more ideal and symbolic. The concern for realism was lost, and there was a tendency towards a schematization that sought to capture the ideal, the soul or the divinity, and not the human aspect of the figures. The carving, in correspondence with this new aesthetic, acquires a great hardness, and the figures acquire a noble hieratism.