The vast majority of sarcophagi are lost, destroyed, or altered beyond recognition

The vast majority of sarcophagi are lost, destroyed, or altered beyond recognition

The examples include Christian and non-Christian iconography, and occur from late antiquity esatto the present day

Those that survive are commonly considered onesto be indicative of what was produced. Inferences such as this are basic preciso archaeology and art history; sometimes, however, the superiorita is misleading. Consider the material of antique sculpture. Literary and epigraphic sources confirm that the relative proportions of bronze and marble were far different con ancient cities than they are durante modern collections (Stewart, Reference Stewart 1990: 24–5; Daehner and Lapatin, Reference Daehner, Lapatin, Daehner and Lapatin 2015: 22). For example, emperors who remained popular are over-represented mediante the insieme of surviving imperial portraits compared with those who were condemned by posterity (Varner, Reference Varner 2004).

The vicissitudes of survival also affect sarcophagi. Preservation and destruction were not uniformly practised or meted out. ‘Unimportant’ sarcophagi must have suffered the most, fields of strigillation and portraits of forgotten decedents attracting less benign attention con most periods than mythological themes, battles, hunts or biblical scenes. Given the subsequent religious and cultural history of Europe, one might anticipate another bias, this one tending preciso favour the conservation, or at least deter the erasure, of Christian as compared with non-Christian images. Footnote 17

This particular discrepancy has a technical explanation; mediante other cases, accommodant, cultural or political factors are responsible

Hugo Brandenburg ( Reference Brandenburg, Bisconti and Brandenburg 2004: 14) briefly mooted the possibility that the ‘hazards of preservation of late antique non-Christian sarcophagi’ might be partly responsible for their rarity. Asymmetric rates of survival should not be invoked hastily puro explain different frequencies among classes of artefacts. Continue reading “The vast majority of sarcophagi are lost, destroyed, or altered beyond recognition”