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Portrait Artist's Workshop Painted Sarcophagus (detail)

1st century AD

Bosporan Kingdom

Limestone; h of sarcophagus 81 cm, w 215 cm, l 57 cm

This sarcophagus, carved from a single block of limestone, was found in the course of excavation work on the territory of a square at Kerch.

The sarcophagus walls are decorated with colourful painting, inside and out, like the walls in Northern Black Sea Coast sepulchral chambers. Painted Corinthian columns divide the scenes, which represent either events from the deceased's life or his religious views and the rituals associated with them. One of these compositions is a portrait artist's workshop, which probably indicates the occupation of the deceased. Wearing garments typical of Bosporus inhabitants, the artist sits at the easel; on the wall are three finished framed portraits.

This fresco is of particular value because it proves the existence of easel painting in Panticapaeum at this date. The style of painting presents a combination of Eastern-Hellenistic influences and local style.

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