Cinerary urn


Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

This top item in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden collection is a cinerary-urn decorated with a scene depicting Odysseus and his companions taking flight from the cyclops Polyphemus. The casket arrived in Leiden in 1826, together with five others. They had been acquired by colonel J.E. Humbert and were the first monuments of this kind in the Netherlands.
Between the 3rd and the 1st century B.C. cinerary-urns were manufactured in Volterra from alabaster and tuff. Alabaster was won in the vicinity and tooled in local workshops. The scenes were inspired by Greek mythology, with elements from local culture added. The figures on the lids were filled out with plaster and then painted and embellished with gold leaf. Because of the corrosive humidity in the subterranean burial-vaults,most colours have been lost.
A striking feature is the emphasis on the head of the deceased. These portraits were mass-produced and show types rather than individuals. The figure is depicted accumbent at the funerary meal, leaning on his left arm. In the picture we see the cyclops – depicted with two eyes in the Etruscan version – throwing stones at the fleeing Odysseus, who, like the other shipmates, is being protected by the Etruscan female demon Vanth.

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  • Title: Cinerary urn
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: -0200/-0050
  • Location: Volterra, Italië
  • Physical Dimensions: w77 x h92.5 x d26 cm
  • Datering: 200-50 v.C.
  • Afmetingen: 92,5 x 77 x 26 cm
  • Type: cinerary urn
  • External Link: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden
  • Medium: alabaster