The tomb relief shows nearly half-figure portraits of three members of the family of the Gessi. The old man in the center, Publius Gessius, son of Publius of the Romilian tribe, evidently saw military service in the wars of the last century of the republic. He apparently held the high rank of...
The tomb relief shows nearly half-figure portraits of three members of the family of the Gessi. The old man in the center, Publius Gessius, son of Publius of the Romilian tribe, evidently saw military service in the wars of the last century of the republic. He apparently held the high rank of either Military Tribune or Legatus, as indicated by his costume. He wears a muscle cuirass, an under-tunic (or arming-doublet) with pteryges, a sword belt worn high-up on the waist as a symbol of high rank, and a military cloak on the left shoulder and forearm. His left hand has a ring on the ring finger and grasps the hilt of his short sword. The matronly woman, Gessia Fausta, and the young man, Publius Gessius Primus, wear tunics and ample cloaks or outer garments. Gessia Fausta and Publius Gessius Primus were once slaves of Publius and were freed by him, as indicated by the inscriptions: GESSIA.P.L.FAVSTA.P.GESSIVS.P.F.ROM.P.GESSIVS.P.L.PRIMVS, "Gessia Fausta, freedwoman of Publius, Publius Gessius, son of Publius, of the Romilian tribe, Publius Gessius Primus, freedman of Publius" (left): EX.TESTAM(ENTO)/P.GESSI.P.L. /PRIMI, "From the testament of Publius Gessius Primus, freedman of Publius": (right): ARBIT[RATU]/GESSIA[E]/FAUSTA[E] "Under the direction of Gessia Fausta" Fausta was thus probably the wife, as well as the freedwoman, of Publius, and Primus was their son, born before his mother had been freed. Primus possesses a combination of his parents' features - his father's sunken cheeks and his mother's projecting upper jaw. The tomb was built from funds provided in the will of Primus, under the supervision of Fausta, the surviving member of the trio. The relief was carved in the severe, veristic style of the Roman late Republic, about 60 to 50 B.C. The upper right edge is mostly broken away, including part of the inscription; the upper molding and the left corners have suffered much slighter damages. The surfaces have a brown crusty deposit, visible in nearly all areas, including the damaged noses of the three portraits. Scientific Analysis: University of South Florida Lab No. 8417: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.0 / delta18O -1.9, Attribution - Carrara. Justification - C and O isotopes, fine grain, opaque, relief from Italy
By 1936: with Brummer Gallery, Inc., 55 East 57th Street, New York (according to Brummer it was recently excavated in Rome and exported with a government permit) (in 1937 Aldo Iandolo said it was found in September 1936 on the Via Cassia near Viterbo); purchased by MFA from Brummer Gallery, Inc., January 14, 1937, for $ 8,000.00
Archibald Cary Coolidge Fund
Roman, Late Republican or Early Imperial Period, about 30–20 B.C.
Place of Manufacture
Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 319; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 114 (additional published references); Highlights: Classical Art (MFA), pp. 104-105.
Overall: 65 x 204.5 x 34cm (25 9/16 x 80 1/2 x 13 3/8in.)
Medium or Technique
Marble from Carrara, Italy