Early Christian Sarcophagus

Early Christian Sarcophagus

Date ca. 270 CE

Movement Early Christian

Medium Marble

Provenance Santa Maria Antiqua, Rome, Italy


Sarcophagi comprises Christianity’s early sculptural works; consistent with contemporaneous sculpture, their figures are abstract and typically compose small scale reliefs. At the left, the narrative of Jonah is again employed to hearken back to the religion’s Old Testament; to the right, an orate opens his palms in worship, followed by a representation of a seated scholar. Though the forms are abstract, the sculptor clearly employs a Classical style when shaping the figures’ musculature and clothing; this is especially true of Jonah and the baptist; note the shepherd’s chiastic pose—it helps to emphasize the ease with which Jesus takes care of his flock.