A Roman marble sarcophagus relief of Orestes
Lot 62*W
A Roman marble sarcophagus relief
Sold for £45,600 (US$ 76,645) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
A Roman marble sarcophagus relief
Circa 2nd-3rd Century A.D.
Depicting the death of Clytaemnestra at the the hands of her son Orestes, she is shown in the left foreground, slain with her head thrown back, her wavy hair hanging down towards the floor, her naked body with her breasts exposed, her drapery over her left arm, her nurse-maid Gelissa behind her in motion to her right, dressed in chiton revealing her right breast, her arms held out to the sides, her hair falling in tresses, a male servant crouching in the foreground beneath a tray held in his right hand, his drapery over his right shoulder revealing his left arm, shoulder and thigh, another female figure standing on the right wearing a chiton and holding her spindle representing Clotho, one of the three Fates, a large swag of draped cloth behind them dividing the scene, and obscuring the lower halves of the two Furies behind, their heads and shoulders raised above in profile to the left, both with thick wavy hair, looking upwards and wearing tunics, the one in front with her left arm outstretched a coiled snake on her arm, the one behind with her right arm raised with facing palm, the sarcophagus border above carved with four bands of decorative ornament, bead-and-reel, egg-and-dart above, a band of cymatium, and a border of meander with rosettes along the upper edge, 28½ x 29in (72.5 x 74cm) mounted


  • Provenance:
    Ex Carr Foundation, acquired from Christie's New York on 8th June 2005. Prior to this it was sold at Christie's New York, December 8th, 2000.

    Christie's New York, Antiquities, June 8th, 2005, lot 181.
    Christie's New York, Antiquities, December 7th, 2000, lot 614

    This relief depicts the story of the murder of Clytaemnestra, wife of Agamemnon and daughter of the king of Sparta Tyndareus and Leda. As revenge for the sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia, by Agamemnon en route to Troy, Clytaemnestra who is left in charge of the kingdom of Mycenae, plots the murder of her husband. After the ten year was she and her lover Aegisthus brutally murder Agamemnon and his concubine Cassandra on their return. However her son Orestes later avenges his father's death with the help of his sister Electra, slaying Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus. According to Aeschylus, Clytaemnestra begged her son in vain, to spare her life saying, 'Wait son! Have pity, child, upon this breast, which you held, drowsing away the hours, sucking, with toothless gums, the milk that nourished you...I gave you life. Let me grow old with you.' (Libation-Bearer, 895). Orestes is shown here being pursued by the Furies for committing matricide, and as he is driven to madness by them, so Euripides' drama Orestes, written in 408 B.C. begins. The play continues with the trial of Orestes and Electra by Menelaus and Helen of Troy.

    The myth of Orestes can be found on a number of other sarcophagi including one example in the Munich Glyptothek (Inv. no.363) and another in the Vatican (Inv. no.2513).