Rare double-sided Attic marble anthemion

Greece, Classical period, 2nd half of 4th century B.C.
H. 89 cm (35 3⁄64 in) W. 42 cm (16 17⁄32 in) D. 20 cm (7 7⁄8 in)

Private collection, Germany, prior to 1990
Private collection, Switzerland, acquired from the above

E. Simon e.a.
Dei e Uomini, Roma 1997, 16

Brigitte Freyer-Schauenburg
Doppelseitige Anthemien, in: AEIMNHSTOS Miscellanea di studi per Mauro Cristofani, vol. 1, 2005, 124-133, ill. 1-2

Carlos A. Picón, Joan R. Mertens, Elizabeth J. Milleker, Christopher S. Lightfoot, and Seán Hemingway, with contributions by Richard De Puma
Art of the Classical World in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece, Cyprus, Etruria, Rome, 2007, p. 146, ill. 165

The obverse with twin fluted acanthus stems, both emerging from a fragmentary three-leaf calyx, each with seven voluted addorsed fronds (the tips now missing), traces of pink and light blue pigments, visible at the tip of the acanthus leaves, and where the stems and the neck of the leaves meet. The reverse, shallow carved and not finished, with two acanthus stems, from each six voluted fronds rise, a small six-petalled rosette between the two middle leaves. One of the few known examples to have been carved on both sides.

The Greeks have buried their dead in large cemeteries outside the city walls since Antiquity. The production of more elaborate grave markers during the Archaic period began as a result of the upper classes’ desire to exhibit their wealth and social standing, and so from the Classical period onwards, tomb monuments became more ornate and ostentatious. Of course, the gravestone carried great religious and ritual significance in the funerary tradition of the Greeks, but they also carried this further social significance. By the end of the Classical period, the tradition of setting up extravagant gravestones came to an abrupt end when Demetrios of Phaleron enacted a law to prohibit the flamboyant representation of wealth and family status in cemeteries.
The composition of this anthemion is very similar to the stelai in Hans Möbius, Die Ornamente der griechischen Grabstelen klassischer und nachklassischer Zeit, München 1968, pl. 21, 58-59

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