Italy, Etruscan, early 4th Century BC
with base - h:18.50 w:18.30 cm (h:7 1/4 w:7 3/16 inches)
without base - h:14.00 w:17.40 cm (h:5 1/2 w:6 13/16 inches) Wt: 5 lbs.
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund
The Etruscans, a mysterious people who lived in northern Italy, loved Greek mythology and used it as subject matter in their works of art.
The two winged figures, Sleep and Death, bend respectfully and tenderly toward their burden---Zeus's son, "godlike Sarpedon of the brazen helmet," who died on the battlefield at Troy. According to Homer's Iliad, the young prince had led a band of warriors from Lycia (in southern Turkey) to help King Priam repulse the Greek attack. Apollo, at Zeus's request, sent his winged messengers to gather the limp body, bathe and anoint it, and carry it home for burial.
This bronze was once the handle of a large jewelry box called a cista.