Details & Cataloguing

Ancient Sculpture & Works of Art


A Roman Marble Funerary Altar inscribed for Cornelius Primitivus, 1st/2nd Century A.D.
of rectangular form, the front panel finely engraved within a recessed panel with seven lines of Latin inscription reading D(is) M(anibus) / Corneli / Primitivi / C(aius) Cornelius / Felix / alumno / karissimo fecit ("To the Spirits of the Departed of Cornelius Primitivus. Caius Cornelius Felix made [this] for his most beloved ward"), a ewer carved in relief on one side, a patera on the other, the now missing lid with rounded pediment decorated with a wreath in front; front corner restored.
69.5 by 42.6 by 30.2 cm.
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in the 16th Century in Rome, in a house by the Forum of Nerva (Forum Transitorium)
Palazzo Salviati, Rome, late 16th Century
Villa Giustiniani gardens, Rome, 18th Century
Villa Borghese, Giardino del Lago, Rome, prior to 1886
Christie's, New York, December 7th, 2000, no. 598, illus.
acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Jean-Jacques Boissard, Pars Romanae Urbis Topographiae & Antiquitatum, vol. V, Frankfurt, 1600, pl. 80 (https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/boissard1600bd5/0102/image)
Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, vol. VI: Inscriptiones urbis Romae latinae, part 3, Berlin, 1886, no. 16289, with list of manuscripts and successive locations in which the altar was recorded (http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/marbilder/4187877)
N.G. Brancato, Una componente transversale nella società romana: gli alumni. Inscriptiones latinae ad alumnos pertinentes commentariumque, Rome, 2015, no. 554

Catalogue Note

Epigraphers have recorded the present altar across four centuries in three of Rome's most prestigious private collections of ancient marbles.

On the use and meaning of the word alumnus see C. Saviato, "L''alumnus' nell'Italia romana (appunti per una ricerca su base epigrafica," in Epigraphica, vol. 61, 1999, pp. 288-292), and H. S. Nielsen, "Alumnus. A Term of Relation Denoting Quasi-adoption," in Classica & Mediaevalia, 38, 1987, pp. 141-188

Ancient Sculpture & Works of Art