Archaeological Museum of Bologna

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Collections / Sections / Greek collection

Fragment of a sarcophagus lid with sailing Erotes

The antiquarian activity of Luigi Ferdinando Marsili (1658–1730) contributed enormously to the collection of Greek and Roman marble works, and also added a substantial number of ceramics. Scholars have been able to attribute them to the Bologna nobleman’s collection by comparing the works to the oil paintings assembled in two bound parchment codices made when the collection was donated to the Istituto delle Scienze, founded by Marsili. There are also votive reliefs, fragments of sarcophagi and sculptures in the round, often with elements added during modern restoration work, and Attic and Italiot pottery produced in Apulia, Lucania and Campania that Marsili probably purchased from antiquarians in Rome.

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This fragment was part of the raised back of a sarcophagus lid and depicts three Erotes in a boat: one is busy fishing and the other two are playing musical instruments, respectively a tibia and a lyre. There is also another one, partially conserved, who seems to be falling from the boat. The motif of eroti in a boat was frequently used to decorate sarcophagi and has often been interpreted as a metaphor for the journey to the afterlife. In this collection there are other sarcophagus fragments depicting journeys by chariot or boat; Marsili probably purchased them to add the motif of ancient means of transport to his iconographic collection.

Provenance: University Collection (formerly Marsili Collection)
Datation: Late 3rd century AD
Material: Marmo
Inventory #: G 1069

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Exhibition rooms | Rooms V and VI - Greek collection