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Funeral Relief of a Playwright and His Family (1st-2nd century CE)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Funeral Relief of a Playwright and His Family (1st-2nd century CE).

About the Work

Title : Funeral Relief of a Playwright and His Family
Year : 1st-2nd century CE
Medium : Pentelic (?) marble
Dimensions : 56.5 cm h x 32.5 cm w x 8 cm d
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Funerary Relief

This funerary relief depicts a playwright and his family. The figure to the right, presumably the playwright himself holds up what looks like a head or a mask in his right hand. The figure in the middle is that of a child, while the figure to the viewer left is a lady seated on a stool of sorts.

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums :

“Mimicking architectural forms, the pointed top of this stele is in the shape of an aedicula or naiskos with a theater mask at the center of the pediment…The subject of actors or playwrights on Greek stelai has a long tradition, dating to as early as the fourth century BCE. The choice of subject suggests that the relief may belong to an actor and his family.”

Other Details

Funeral Relief of a Playwright and His Family is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 3400. It is part of the museum’s collection of the North Arcade. The piece has been housed at the Fogg Art Museum since 1960.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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