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1 Introduction to the Humanities I: Greece through the Renaissance 27 February 2011

Museum Project Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MassachusettsIntroduction:To begin my journey, I visited the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston, Massachusetts on July 22, 2010. My last visit to the MFA was about 35 years ago making this an exciting field trip for me. I arrived at the steps of the museum; I knew that this was going to be a monumental task to select 4 pieces of work to discuss in this term paper. I spent the whole day at the museum and walked through many collections multiple times trying to select meaningful pieces to write about. I was please to discover that you can take photos as long as you do not use a flash and took advantage of that. I have included my photos, which are not as good as those provided online, however my photos make my visit more real and personal. Taking the photos saved me from a lot of writing, although cell phone pictures are not as steady as the camera. The photos also help demonstrate the art form that I am discussing and will give the reader a visual of the particular piece I selected. The works of art that I chose and discuss in this paper are the following: 1. Roman Sarcophagus Italic, Etruscan, Late Classical or Hellenistic Period, Late 4thearly 3rd century B.C 2. Roman Sculpture The child Dionysus 140-170 A.D. 3. Roman Frescoes Villa Fondo Bottaro First Century A.D. 4. Italian Renaissance Painting - Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple 1467 The choices I made were not based on beauty or substance but for the empowering effect they had on me as I studied these pieces in the museum.


Roman SarcophagiA sarcophagus is a burial container which is carved from stone; traditionally, many sarcophagi were made from limestone, although a wide variety of types of stone may be used, including granite and marble. Many people associate the sarcophagus with classical antiquity, since these burial containers were extensively used during this period, although such burial containers continue to be used in some regions today1. The origin of the word sarcophagus is derived from the Greek sarx, or flesh and phagein, which means to eat. The Greeks believed that sarcophagi literally ate the bodies stored inside, dissolving the bones within a very short period of time, especially when they were carved from limestone2. The word was borrowed by the Romans, and possibly the reason we see these in Etruria, Italy in the late 4th or early 3rd century B.C. The concept of using sarcophagi during burial dates back to Egyptian times. Although the Egyptians used sarcophagi as a means of preserving and protecting the body, Egyptian sarcophagi were concealed from the public and were never meant to be displayed. It was more of a religious rite to keep away intruders from viewing the burial chamber and to allow safe passage for the deceased to the underworld3. The Romans were practicing cremation prior to the second Century and would place ashes in ossuaries. Eventually, the Romans adopted inhumation (burying the dead) as their primary funerary practice which created a demand for sarcophagi during the second and third centuries. Unlike the Egyptians, the Romans1

Smith, S. E. "What Is a Sarcophagus?" WiseGEEK: Clear Answers for Common Questions. Google. Web. 07 Aug. 2010. .2

Smith, S. E. "What Is a Sarcophagus?" WiseGEEK: Clear Answers for Common Questions. Google. Web. 07 Aug. 2010. .3

Fadl, Ayman. "Comparison Between Egyptian and Roman Coffins." ALDOKKAN Ancient Egypt. Web. 07 Aug. 2010. .

3 sarcophagi were displayed in a wide variety of ways. Many were viewed in open-air settings, on pedestals or placed on the roofs of tombs. The most common shape for Roman sarcophagi was a low rectangular box with a lid4. Etruria is often referred to in Greek and Latin sources as Tyrrhenia and was the area that is now the Regions of Tuscany, Latium and Umbria. Etruria was one of the most important cities on the Italian peninsula before it fell to the Roman Republic in 3 BC5. Etruria was prosperous with mining, trade and was also thought to be the first democracy moving away from tribal monarchy system6. In my research on Etruria I found that the people may have migrated from Greece to this northern region of Italy. The sarcophagus I selected at the MFA was titled Sarcophagus and lid with portraits of husband and wife. According to the MFA it is dated Italic, Etruscan, Late Classical or Hellenistic Period, Late 4th-early 3rd century B.C.7 I selected this piece because of the husband and wife on the lid (Figure 1). They are lying close to one another and embracing each other in a loving way. They are looking at each other and have a cover over them exposing their feet. When I studied this piece I saw eternal


Fadl, Ayman. "Comparison Between Egyptian and Roman Coffins." ALDOKKAN Ancient Egypt. Web. 07 Aug. 2010. .5

Marcus, Glenn, and Karen Marcus. "A Bit of Roman History - My Travels in Italy." My Travels in Italy Glenn & Karen Marcus. Web. 07 Aug. 2010. .6

Brown, Mark, and Farsheed Khosmood. "Roma - Albans/Etruscans." Oracle ThinkQuest Library. ORACLE Education Foundation. Web. 07 Aug. 2010. .7

"Etruscan Art: Accession Number: 1975.799." Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Museum of Fine Arts. Web. 06 Aug. 2010. .

4 life together. You could also see both Roman and Greek influences in the design of this sarcophagus which would explain the Etruscan influences. The information provided by the MFA pointed out that the portrait of the man is of particular interest to the study of Etruscan (and Early Roman) portraiture, foreshadowing in many respects the Roman Republican portraiture which would, in considerable degree, develop from the Etruscan form. The woman wears a double fillet or braids around her hair, a heart-shaped earring, and a long chiton with sleeves. The pediments at each end of the lid (Figure 2) have three ideal, female heads in relief in rosettes. The front of the sarcophagus (Figure 3) shows a ceremony, presumably the couples marriage. They clasp hands in the center, or (more precisely) he places his hand around her wrist, while he also holds a knotted staff in the left hand. Four attendants follow on either side. Those on the left comprise (from center to corner) a man with a tall staff, a lantern or jarFigure 1: Sarcophagus husband and wife

suspended from it; a women with a tray on her head and a

pitcher in her lowered right hand; a women with a large fan and a situla (bucket) in her lowered right hand; and a women with a lyre and


Figure 2: Front pediment

Figure 3: The front of the body

plectron. On the right appear a young man with a chair; another with a small stick or scepter; a third with a curved horn; and a woman with a wreath and double flutes8. On the left end, two women, parasol over their heads, ride in a cart drawn by two mules driven by a male attendant. A winged spirit of death waves two snakes at them. On the right end, a bearded magistrate mounts a two-horse chariot, attended by a man with the pastoral staff or lituus. Since the man on the major front panel wears the Greek himation, it has been suggested that he is the heroized deceased, leading his wife to the underworld. If such be the case, she may have survived him to have her own separate procession on the left end, and the scene on the front thus may be taken as a symbolic marriage ceremony, the union with death and life in the underworld rather than merely in life on earth9 This particular sarcophagus was made from nenfro, a volcanic stone that contains fragments of basalt and limestone and other minerals. Nenfro was native to Etruria and was8

"Etruscan Art: Accession Number: 1975.799." Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Museum of Fine Arts. Web. 06 Aug. 2010. .9

"Etruscan Art: Accession Number: 1975.799." Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Museum of Fine Arts. Web. 06 Aug. 2010. .

6 used in many Classical period sculptures10. In my general research for the paper I discovered that this area of Italy has several volcanic calderas that most likely provided an abundance of volcanic stone.

Roman SculptureThe child Dionysus (Figure 4) is a marble piece which was created during the Imperial period about 140-170 A.D. The god Dionysus (also known as Bacchus), the only child of Zeus and Semele, is shown portrayed as a young child carrying pomegranates, grapes, and other fruits in a fold of his mantle. Dionysus was the god of drama, wine, and fertility and was associated with the harvest and seasons as a bringer of fruitfulness. Dionysus is the only major Greco-Roman deity who was portrayed at all stages of his life; as an infant, child, youth, and mature man. The god wears a wreath of ivy leaves and grapes over his wavy hair and grape-clusters over his ears. He also wears a fillet across his forehead that ends in tresses on his neck. His cloak is draped over his left arm and contains pomegranates andFigure 4: The child Dionysus

fruit, indicating abundance; the cloak is buttoned on his

right shoulder and partially covers his protruding stomach.


"British Museum - Sarcophagus Lid with the Portrait of a Woman." British Museum - Welcome to the British Museum. British Museum. Web. 06 Aug. 2010. .

7 The right arm is broken from the shoulder; and the drapery-covered left arm supports pomegranates and fruit, although the left hand is missing. The right leg is advanced; but his feet and part of the pedestal are missing11. During the Roman Imperial age, most art focused on the Romans military successes. What I found interesting about this piece was the Greek influence of mythology. This piece may have been considered public art as I found it entertaining. Although this piece is missing its feet it looks like the child