This beautiful sarcophagus is one of my favorite pieces of art from the ancient world. This “Sarcophagus of the Spouses” is Etruscan – the region northwest of present day Rome, roughly equivalent to Tuscany – and is from the 6th Century BC.
It’s a world-famous masterpiece of terracotta craftsmanship, and the ashes of two people were found inside. The couple is portrayed in the afterlife, reclining at a banquet with wine vessels in their hands.
The Villa Giulia Museum in Rome now owns the piece, and the backstory is that when the museum founder first saw the shattered clay coffin, he immediately purchased it for display – all 400 pieces!
The quality of my photos is less than sterling, but in my defense, I have a couple of excuses. First, the sarcophagus is now enclosed in glass (which is understandable), and there was no way to avoid reflections. Additionally, I was photographing on the sly, trying to avoid the roaming security guard and her stern imposition of the No-Photography Rule.
Funerary rites were important to Etruscans, so in addition to a beautifully detailed sarcophagus, the couple would have been interred in a colorful tomb.
I particularly enjoy the loving attitude that the couple shows each other. For these lovers, death is just another part of life to be experienced together – what a romantic notion, forever frozen in terracotta. For my money, this ancient masterpiece has few equals in the world.
It didn’t happen often in the ancient world, but there were a few cultures which believed that women and men were equals. This Etruscan art is exceptional and moving because it portrays a couple in a timeless love. They were true companions in life and death, and they enjoyed a partnership for the ages. True love is timeless.
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This post wraps up our Lessons From the Road Series. We’ve enjoyed writing the posts, and hope that you’ve enjoyed reading them. As travel bloggers, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the minutia of a destination or sight. But we’ve found that a step back for a big picture view makes the travel experience more meaningful and rewarding. This approach keeps things fresh for us, and hopefully, for you as well. Thanks for following along.
Photo Credit: 1. By Frank Axelsson via Wikimedia Commons