Lot 65
  • 65

A Roman Marble Funerary Altar inscribed for Mystes and Dorius, 1st Century A.D.

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • A Roman Marble Funerary Altar inscribed for Mystes and Dorius
  • marble
  • 83 by 59 by 39 cm.
on an integral moulded base, finely carved with seated sphinxes in the lower corners and ram's heads holding garlands in the upper corners, and in front with Romulus and Remus suckling the she-wolf, an eagle with outspread wings, and a panel engraved with seven lines of Latin inscription translating "To the Spirits of the Departed. Volusia Irene to Mystes, slave of Lucius Volusius Saturninus, and to Dorius her son, who lived fifteen years and six months, with the permission of (our) master Quintus," a patera on one short side, a ewer on the other, a bird reaching for the garland on each short side, a rectangular cavity for the ashes on top; head of eagle and other details restored, back removed and replaced with an 18th-century exact copy of the front minus the inscription, lid missing and replaced by an Italian marble top.


Mellini Collection, Palazzo Mellini, Piazza Navona, Rome, early 16th Century
Cesi Collection, Palazzo Cesi on the Janiculum, Rome, second half of the 16th Century
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford (1710-1771), Southampton House, Bloomsbury Square, London, mid 18th Century
the art collector, philanthropist, and racing enthusiast Sandra Helen Payson (1926-2004), Ashleigh House, Delaplane, Virginia
by descent to the present owner


Battista Brunelleschi, Florence, Biblioteca Marucelliana, Ms. A 78, 1, fol. 38r, 1509-1513, drawing of entire altar
Jacobus Mazochius (Giacomo Mazzocchio), Epigrammata antiquae Urbis, 1521,p. 93, verso: "in domo domini Petripauli de Mellinis"
Martinus Smetius (Martin Smet), Inscriptionum antiquarum quae passim per Europam liber, Leiden, 1588, fol. 122, no. 4: "in aedibus Ioh. Baptistae. Millini, ad Agonem: in ara marm. eleganti"
Jean-Jacques Boissard, Pars Romanae Urbis Topographiae & Antiquitatum, vol. III: Topographia Romanae Urbis, vol. III, Frankfurt, 1597, pl. 77: "apud Card. Caesianum"
Jan Gruter, Inscriptiones antiquae totius orbis romani, vol. II, Amsterdam, 1707, p. 986, no. 4, engraving after Boissard on the next page
Bernard de Montfaucon, L'antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures, vol. 5,1, Paris, p. 92g, engraving after Boissard
Scipione Maffei, Museum veronense, Verona, 1749, p. 445, no. 8: "In villa Southampton"
Gaetano Marini, Gli atti e monumenti de Fratelli Arvalli scolpiti già in tavola di marmo, Rome, 1795, p. 123
Bachofen, "La lupa romana su monumenti," Annali dell' Instituto di correspondenza archeologica, vol. 40, 1868, p. 426, no. 5
Peter Aichholzer, Darstellungen römischer Sagen, Vienna, 1983, p. 92
Marco Buonocore, Schiavi e liberti dei Volusi Saturnini, Rome, 1984, p. 94, no. 46
DIetrich Boschung, Antike Grabaltäre aus den Nekropolen Roms, 1987, p. 62, no. 653. pl. 17
Sandro Santolini, "Pietro e Mario Millini fondatori di una dinastia di collezionisti antiquari," in Anna Cavallaro, ed., Collezioni de antichità a Roma da '400 e '500, Rome, 2007, p. 51, fig. 18
William Stenhouse, The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo. Ancient Inscriptions, London, 2002, p. 186


As shown. On patera side: note one large triangular area broken and repaired, including panthers and head of sphinx. On ewer side: corner of base in back broken in numerous small fragments now kept loose in a plastic bag. Object was made lighter by sawing off most of interior, all the way through from top to bottom in a hexagonal shape. As described in catalogue, entire back was restored in the 18th century replicating the front. Head of ancient eagle restored in marble. Beak of modern eagle chipped off. Superficial stress cracks running through one of sphinxes' back and across lower section of restored back above she-wolf. Top partially covered in plaster to even up the surface and make the modern marble top fit better; drips of resin or glue against top of interior sides. Chips and abrasions overall.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.