EARLY CHRISTIAN SCULPTOR, Italian
(active mid-4th century in Rome)

Sarcophagus of Costanza

350s
Porphyry
Museo Pio-Clementino, Vatican

This sarcophagus was made for Constantine's daughter, Constantia (also known as Constantina or Costanza), who died in 354 AD. Originally it was in the mausoleum built for her, later consecrated as a church in 1256, now the church of Santa Constanza in Rome.

The sarcophagus is made of porphyry, probably quarried in Egypt; this stone was associated with imperial purposes. The peacocks and the lamb at the base of the sarcophagus are Christian symbols although the winged putti and the grape harvest motif began as a Bacchic theme. The mask on the lid is also Bacchic in origin.

The sarcophagus is decorated with reliefs of putti harvesting grapes (a common theme in classical art and seen as well in the mosaics of the barrel-vaulted ambulatory). The scenes are framed by large acanthus scrolls.