Painted sarcophagus of Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

We know her name to be Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa as it is inscribed at the base of the sarcophagus, or coffin, but we don’t know her first name because it was not included. This was not unusual for Etruscan women’s names on sarcophagi. She is shown reclining upon a shallow mattress and plump pillow, holding an open lidded-mirror and raising her right hand to adjust her cloak. She wears a chiton (tunic) with a high girdle, a purple-bordered cloak, and jewellery comprising a tiara, earrings, a necklace, bracelet, arm-band and finger-rings.

Scientific testing of the woman's teeth indicates that she was probably about 50 to 55 years old at the time of her death. Her portrait is more youthful, but when compared with the features of her skull the details show that this is likely to have been much how she looked when she was younger, and it is the earliest verifiable portrait from antiquity. A reconstruction has been made of Seianti's head.

The practice of representing the dead person reclining on the lid of the sarcophagus developed in Etruria and remained popular through Medieval times down to the early 19th century.


  • Title: Painted sarcophagus of Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa
  • Date Created: -250/-150
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted; moulded
  • Registration number: 1887,0402.1
  • Production place: Made in Italy
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Poggio Cantarello
  • Period/culture: Etruscan
  • Material: terracotta
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Helbig, Wolfgang

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