STATUE OF A SLEEPING NYMPH (220 A.D.)
The sleeping figure is lying on a plinth simulating rocky ground: the bent left arm rests on an amphora from which flows water, imitated with conventional waves; the right arm is bent over the chest, concealing a breast. The right hand rests limply on the left shoulder, on which the girl’s head is reclined; this is framed by long hair gathered at the nape of the neck and ending in curls falling on the shoulders. The naked bust is notably turned with regard to the pelvis; a cloak covers the legs and, passing under the back, is wrapped round the left forearm, covering the amphora. The present statue belongs to a type that Was extremely common in the Imperial age as a garden ornament: the hole in the vase shows that it was used as a fountain. In fairly recent times a copy was made in which the figure is the mirror image of this one so that it could symmetrically adorn the passage from the portico to the salone. On the front of the sarcophagus on which the statue of the nymph is placed two Erotes are represented in flight with their legs extended horizontally towards the exterior. Bearing a clypeus, they are arranged symmetrically and fill a large part of the sarcophagus front. The clypeus is accompanied below by two very stylized cornucopias, next to which, in the space left free by the Erotes, are two vases on their sides. On the lid are garlands and masks.
This is one of a large group of sarcophagi depicting Erotes in flight bearing a clypeus with the image of the deceased or an inscription. The custom of representing a shield or crown on sarcophagi derives from the honorary function of these objects in civil ceremonies, and was common to both public and private sarcophagi. In funerary custom these motifs, alone or, more often, together with other more specifically funerary images, allude to the apotheosis of the deceased, as well as evidently having an ornamental function.