Galleria Borghese logo
Search results for
No results :(

Hints for your search:

  • Search engine results update instantly as soon as you change your search key.
  • If you have entered more than one word, try to simplify the search by writing only one, later you can add other words to filter the results.
  • Omit words with less than 3 characters, as well as common words like "the", "of", "from", as they will not be included in the search.
  • You don't need to enter accents or capitalization.
  • The search for words, even if partially written, will also include the different variants existing in the database.
  • If your search yields no results, try typing just the first few characters of a word to see if it exists in the database.

Section of Festooned Sarcophagus with Erotes and Marine Motifs

Roman art

The slab fragment was originally part of a sarcophagus of which other portions are preserved (one in the Portico, CCXXXXI, specular to this one, and one in the Entrance Hall, LI). The scene depicts two plump, childlike Erotes holding a garland of bunches of grapes, pomegranates, apples, pine cones, corymbs, berries and less characterised fruits. In the lunette of the garland is a third Erote riding a sea panther, heading to the right. The Erotes, often depicted in the form of winged children, are a constant motif in Hellenistic art, but also often appear in Roman art in the form of Erotes, Cupids or Amorini, as in this case.

The type belongs to a series of sarcophagi decorated with garlands produced between the first and fourth century CE, which enjoyed particular appreciation in the Hadrian and Antonine ages; the marine parade – an allusion to the idyllic afterlife condition – decorating the lunette is one of the most common themes in Roman funerary sculpture.

Object details

130-140 d.C.
Luni marble
altezza cm 55, larghezza cm 95, spessore cm 5

Borghese Collection (ante 1671)?; Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 53, no. 179. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1828, Antonio D’Este
  • 1990-1991, I.C.R.


The slab fragment, set in a modern frame, includes two Erotes with plump, childlike bodies and soft facial features framed by wavy curls holding a garland of leaves, fruit, berries and ribbons, within which appears a third Erote riding a sea panther heading to the right. The scene is specular to that of the Portico CCXXXXI slab (to which we refer for a critical analysis of the monument) and both belong to a sarcophagus of which a third portion is preserved (Entrance Hall, LI). 

The fragment was probably among those transferred in 1671 together with statues and bas-reliefs from Villa Pinciana to Palazzo Borghese in Campo Marzio to decorate the garden, and later relocated to Villa Pinciana, before Giuseppe Gozzani, Minister of the House of Borghese in charge of the new family collection, entrusted its restoration to Antonio D’Este in 1828.

The type belongs to a long series of sarcophagi decorated with garlands, characterised by the presence of the relief festoon motif that was very popular in Rome from the late age of Trajan to the early years of Hadrian’s rule (most recently Herdejürgen 1996). The theme of the marine thiasos ornamenting the lunette is among the most widespread in Roman funerary sculpture and can be interpreted as a reference to the idyllic otherworldly condition (Parodo 2018).

Jessica Clementi

  • G. B. Falda, Le fontane di Roma nelle piazze, e luoghi publici della città, III, Roma 1691, tavv. 11-12.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, pp. 130, 140.
  • E. Z. Platner, C. K. J. F. von Bunsen, E. Gerhard, W. Röstell, Beschreibung der Stadt Rom, III, Stuttgart und Tubingen 1837, p. 236 n. 16.
  • P. Gusman, L’art décoratif de Rome de la fin de la République au IVe siècle, III, Paris 1900, p. 24, tav. 174.
  • J. M. C. Toynbee, The Hadrianic School: A Chapter in the History of Greek Art, Cambridge 1934 1934, pp. 212, 219, 224.
  • A. Rumpf, Die Meerwesen auf den antiken Sarkophagreliefs, Die antiken Sarkophagreliefs V, 1, Berlin 1939, p. 4, n. 10, tav. 3.
  • H. Sichtermann, Beiträge zu den Meerwesensarkophagen, in “Archäologischen Anzeiger”, 85, 1970, pp. 214–241, in part. 224.
  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, pp. 6-7.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 102.
  • G. Koch, H. Sichtermann, Römische Sarkophage, Munchen 1982, pp. 224, 233 n. 63, 265.
  • P. Moreno, C. Sforzini, I ministri del principe Camillo: cronaca della collezione Borghese di antichità dal 1807 al 1832, in “Scienze dell’Antichità”,1, 1987, pp. 339-371, in part. p. 360.
  • H. Herdejürgen, Stadtrömische und italische Girlandensarkophage, 1. Die Sarkophagedes 1. und 2. Jahrhunderts. Die antiken Sarkophagreliefs, VI, 2, 1, Berlin 1996, p. 122, nota 637.
  • H. Herdejürgen, Antike und moderne Reliefs in der Villa Borghese, in “Archäologischen Anzeiger”, 4, 1997, pp. 480-503, in part. pp. 490-497, fig. 11.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 36, n. 9b.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 94-95, n. 54.
  • C. Parodo, La morte per acqua. Iconografia di un thiasos marino su un frammento di sarcofago inedito del Museo Civico “Giovanni Marongiu”, Cabras (OR), in “Layers” 3, 2018, pp. 1-20.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008299, P. Moreno 1975; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2021