One of the great things about working at the National Academy is the proximity to the Metropolitan Museum. If you’re finished early enough, you can enjoy a lovely five block stroll down Fifth Avenue and take in the Met’s countless, inspiring treasures. Today I modeled only for the morning session. So at 12:00, to the Met I went!
My primary reason for going to the museum was to see the Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand photography exhibition (which was INCREDIBLE, by the way!), but I always find myself wandering into the Greek and Roman Galleries whenever I’m there. The atmosphere is rarified and bright, and unlike some of the dimly lit galleries upstairs, the Greek and Roman is an ideal place to take pictures.
A sarcophagus is basically a stone coffin. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all used sarcophagi to inter their dead. Since they were meant to remain above-ground sarcophagi were often ornately designed, with mythological figures and stories carved into the stone. So what you have are amazing relief sculptures that are as impressive and elaborate as anything you’ll see. Marble, limestone, alabaster, and metals were all used for sarcophagi. A sarcophagus could have either stood alone freestanding or been part of a larger tomb construction. When the Christian practice of burying the dead in the ground became widespread, sarcophagus use gradually disappeared. King Tut’s tomb held an enormous sarcophagus – nine feet long and nine feet high- which contained the famous solid gold coffin that held the mummified remains of the King. Actually I think it was a coffin inside another coffin inside another coffin, in the sarcophagus, in the tomb. I’m not sure 😕
There are three significant sarcophagi in the Greek and Roman Galleries. I photographed all of them at varying spots and angles. Click to enlarge for up close detail and dimension.
You find many players in these scene depictions: cherubs on chariots, bears, lions, horses, minotaurs, garlands of flowers, grapes, and pomegranates, the Greek hero Theseus and the princess Ariadne, Dionysus, Endymion, the whole gang.
Sealed inside an intricately sculpted sarcophagus is a grand way to spend eternity. A bit more stylish than a pine box! You gotta hand it to those Greeks and Romans – they went all out!