This piece of art was created in the first half of the first century A.D. It is currently on display on the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York at gallery 166. It is classified as a stone sculpture made in the imperial period. The essay describes the Urn in details giving its cultural orientation and background…
The major theme of the art on the cinery urn is spoils of a war. It is a striking rectilinear box covered with aspects of war like weapon armor, piles of trophies, carriages, and clubs. The fragmentary nature of the marble cinery urn makes it more captivating. The panels making the piece are of high quality, identifying the urn as a unique commission. Other available urns are baskets and vases which make this type of earn unique. The name of the deceased was inscribed on the front but the writing is missing. The marble cinery urn was excavated in south East Rome in a tomb in Anagni in the year 1899. The craftsmanship and the iconography of the art identify it as sarcophagi of the mid imperial period. (metmuseum.org, n.p)
A commemorative urn shows the existence of loyalty, love and the beauty of ancient culture. Social messages to the deceased were easily put across using the urns and other portraits. There are other types of urns each with different purposes and cultural meaning. Ancient Romans could choose between burying their dead or cremating them, the choice was left for the family to decide. Cremation was more prevalent in this time since the burying was more foreign before the second century AD. This practice of cremation is evident in their art. Images and the themes of the dead and those mourning were common in the poetry. The urns were used to store the ashes of the dead after cremation. The marble cinery urn described above was probably used to store a victim of war that is why the urn has the weaponry engraved on the outer surface of the urn. The urns containing the ashes were placed in underground chambers or tombs with each individual urn having its own space. The chambers were personal properties or collective burial grounds. There was mass production of the urns but each urn was personalized that is why each urn is different from the other. Traditionally a final sigh signaled the death of a person. The relatives of the deceased would surround the death bed chanting his or her name. Calling of the name would be done continuously to ensure that the deceased had really died and for the burial process to officially start. People believed that this practice was equating breathe and the soul. A close relative would give a deceased a last kiss to catch the soul. The deceased eyes were also closed. Much weight was given to last words of a dying person (Hope, 168). Bodies were removed from the death beds placed on their knees for some time and then placed on the ground for the female relatives to clean it. Wrapping corpses with a black cloth or a white toga signaled the start of the wake. All honors the deceased had achieved in life were placed on the deceased and two cypress branches were planted on the entrance of the home. This was to show that there was a corpse in that specific house. Bodies were placed on a funeral beds in the residence, where people gave their last respects. To indicate a peaceful death the deceased feet were placed facing the door (Hope and Marshall ,34) . Funerary practices had long standing traditions referred to as mos maiorum drawn from Roman traditions and religion. It was one of the means through which cultural and family heritage was preserved and celebrated. Funeral processions (pompa) were made public with professional mourners being part of it. Wealthy families acquired actors who would dance in a satirical way to scare away evil spirits. Mimicking the lifestyle and speech of the deceased was done by the actors. Wax masks were worn by those representing the family’s ancestors who were prominent. Songs, hymns and other chants ...
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