Roman sarcophagus was used as a flower pot in Churchill's birthplace


Blackleaf
#1
An ancient Roman sarcophagus worth up to 300,000 has been discovered on the grounds of Blenheim Palace where it had been used for the last 100 years as a flower pot.

The historic marble coffin has been exposed to the elements for the last century and used as an oversized planter to grow tulips in in the rock garden of Sir Winston Churchill's birthplace in Oxfordshire...


Simply potty! Ancient Roman sarcophagus worth up to 300,000 is discovered on the grounds of Blenheim Palace where it had been used as a flower pot for 100 years

Historic marble coffin depicts a scene of Dionysian revelry and dates back to 300AD
It was obtained by the 5th Duke of Marlborough, famed for his antiquities collections, in the 19th century
For the past century it was used as a planter for tulips and before that had been a makeshift water feature


By Katie French For Mailonline
8 March 2017

An ancient Roman sarcophagus worth up to 300,000 has been discovered on the grounds of Blenheim Palace where it had been used for the last 100 years as a flower pot.

The historic marble coffin has been exposed to the elements for the last century and used as an oversized planter to grow tulips in in the rock garden of Sir Winston Churchill's birthplace in Oxfordshire.

And for 100 years before that the 1,800 year old sarcophagus was used as a makeshift water feature by the 5th Duke of Marlborough - Churchill's great-great-grandfather - who obtained it in the 19th century.


A case of mistaken identity: It may be a Roman relic of huge historical importance but for the last century this ancient coffin has been used as a humble flower pot


Hidden gem: The sarcophagus has been unknowingly used as a garden ornament in the stunning grounds of Blenheim Palace and went undetected until a sharp-eyed valuer spotted its ornate carvings while visiting the Oxfordshire stately home


It scrubs up well! The 4th century item, which weighs almost 900lbs, has been restored and carefully moved inside after decades of braving the elements

Palace officials were prompted to take a closer look at the 6ft 6ins long object after an antiques expert spotted its ornate carvings while making an unrelated visit.

The palace had conservators remove the front marble section, which is the original part, and carry out an extensive investigation.

They identified the basin as a white marble sarcophagus depicting Dionysian revelry dating back to 300AD.

Its splendid carvings depict a drunken Dionysus, the god of wine, leaning on an equally inebriated woodland god known as 'satyr'.

The pair are flanked by party revellers including Hercules and Ariadne as well as two large lion heads.

The marble section weighs nearly 900lbs.

The sarcophagus has been placed on public display in an underground room in Blenheim Palace.

In 2013 auctioneer Guy Schwinge, who sold a similar sarcophagus for 100,000 after finding it being used as a plant trough, said this example could be worth three times that.


'We always thought it was beautiful but we never knew': Members of staff, pictured here transporting the item inside, were shocked to learn its historical importance after knowing it only as a humble container to plant flowers in the spring


Easy does it! The Roman article, worth an estimated 300,000, is given pride of place inside the magnificent Oxfordshire stately home

Mr Schwinge, of Duke's Auctioneers of Dorchester, Dorset, said: 'The quality of this sarcophagus panel suggests it was made in Rome for a high status member of the patrician elite.

'The overall form and Dionysian carving suggest a date late in the late 2nd century and the lion's masks are a clear expression of Roman Imperial power.

'A comparable panel from the collection of John Pierpont Morgan, datable to around 180 AD, came up for auction in New York a few years ago.

'At auction a panel of this sophistication could easily realise 300,000 or more with the Blenheim Palace provenance.'

Kate Ballenger, house manager at the palace, said: 'We were alerted to the sarcophagus's importance by an antiques expert who was visiting the estate.

'We always thought it was a beautiful sculpture but we were not aware of the fact is was a Roman sarcophagus dating back to 300AD.


In good nick: A conservation expert said the piece is in 'remarkable condition' considering it has withstood aggressive conditions from heavy rainfalls to hard winters during its career as a flower pot and a fountain receptacle


The marble coffin was originally obtained by the 5th Duke of Marlborough, who was famous for his extravagant collection of antiquities, around 200 years ago

She said: 'First an elaborate water feature and then a planter for flowers, it has now been conserved and relocated inside the palace.

'We are delighted to have it back and the restoration work is very impressive.

'Now it is in a consistent indoor climate away from the natural elements we are hoping it will remain in good condition and survive for many more centuries to come.'

Nicholas Banfield, of Cliveden Conservation of Taplow, Berks., who has overseen the restoration, said: 'The piece is actually in remarkable condition considering it has withstood seemingly aggressive environments, particularly that of a fountain receptacle.

'Following an initial in-situ inspection we were able to unbolt it from the lead cistern to which it was attached and take it back to our workshops for full cleaning, repair and stabilisation.'

The marble coffin was originally obtained by the 5th Duke of Marlborough, who was famous for his extravagant collection of antiquities, around 200 years ago.

The nobleman's illustrious name did not, however, save him from his mounting debts and his estates were seized and his collections sold.

This particular piece was one of a few he maintained ownership of after retiring to Blenheim Palace.

Read more: Ancient Roman sarcophagus discovered at Blenheim Palace | Daily Mail Online
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Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 11th, 2017 at 08:32 AM..
 
Curious Cdn
#2
He do you say "Pushing up the Daisies" in Latin?
 
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