Roman art, Sarcophagus with Castor and Pollux

Ancient roman sculptor
2nd-3rd cent AD
Sala del Paradiso
Original location
Area known as Paradise: between the facade of the Cathedral and the Baptistery, outdoors
White marble
Height: 145,5 cm ; Width: 248 cm; Length: 133 cm;

This marble sarcophagus, quadrangular in shape, capped by sloping roof with tiles and palmate acroteria ornaments at the corners, is a work of Roman art from the 2nd-3rd centuries AD. The decoration features architectural prosceniums, allegories, mythological figures and portraits.

The front side is structured as the pediment of an architectural portico, with niches and three arches; the figures are placed in the intercolumns: at either end are the Dioscuri brothers, Castor and Polllux, with fluttering chlamys cloaks and horses; in the center we see a married couple in the act of performing the dextrarum iunctio, the grasping of hands signifying marriage. The husband is togatus, the wife veiled. On At the right side we see a rugged figure, bare-chested, with a heifer and an ax for sacrifices; on the other, an armiger with a spear and the Phrygian cap, associated with peoples of the East. The armiger is offering a chained prisoner, bare-chested, bearded, and again with a Phrygian cap, to a third figure with toga and dagger, raised on a podium. 

This is one of the quite numerous sarcophagi adapted in medieval times for the entombment of the dead in the cemetery known as del Paradiso (“of Paradise”), located between the ancient Church of Santa Reparata and the Baptistery of Florence. In later times, this sarcophagus was placed together with a similar one inside the Cathedral, then both of these were mounted on corbels in the facade of the nearby Company of the Laudesi. In the 19th century the sarcophagi were removed, for exhibition in the courtyard of Palazzo Medici Riccardi. After a century they were placed on the sides of the south door of the Baptistery; dismounted after the great flood of Florence in 1966, both sarcophagi were restored and then situated in the external courtyard of the Museo dell'Opera, until finally coming to this museum in 1998.

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Sala del Paradiso