About This Artwork


Side Panel of a Sarcophagus, First half of the 3rd century AD

96 x 140.5 x 22 cm (37 5/16 x 55 3/8 x 8 5/8 in.)

Gift of the Alsdorf Foundation, 1983.584

This panel was once the side wall of a massive stone coffin. It is decorated in relief with a scene taken from the life of the Greek mythical hero Meleager, who led the hunt for a wild boar that was terrorizing the people of Calydon. Here the valiant hunter stands in the center, his right foot resting on a rock. He is surrounded by his companions, including Herakles at the far left, who is armed with his distinctive knobby club, and his beloved, Atalanta (now headless), seated on the right. Meleager’s head resembles portraits of Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.), the Macedonian king and general who conquered Asia as far east as the Indus River, perhaps because the Romans equated success in the hunt with victory on the battlefield. It is possible that the owner of this sarcophagus wished to equate his bravery and achievements with those of both Meleager and Alexander.

—Permanent collection label

This work appears in the online catalogue Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring art historical essays and conservation reports on artworks from the ancient Roman world in the Art Institute’s collection. Entries include new high-resolution photography, stunning 360-degree views of the works, and in-depth technical imaging and analysis. The volume is free to the public.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, "The Search for Alexander", May 14, 1981 - September 7, 1981.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Sculpture From the Classical Collection, Gallery 101A, September 1, 1987 - August 31, 1988.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Classical Art from the Permanent Collection", Gallery 121, February 1989.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 156, April 20, 1994 - February 6, 2012.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Of Gods and Glamour: The Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art", Gallery 152, November 11, 2012 - present.

Publication History

Katharine A. Raff, “Cat. 20 Side Panel of a Sarcophagus: Curatorial Entry,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

Karen B. Alexander, "From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago," in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, by Karen Manchester (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2012), p. 32.

James M. Saslow, Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts (Penguin Books, 1999), pp. 35, 36, 52 (fig. 1.16).

Cornelius C. Vermeule III, Roman Art, Museum Studies: Ancient Art at The Art Institute of Chicago 20, no. 1 (1994), pp. 75-76 (ill.).

Karen Alexander, "The New Galleries of Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago," Minerva (May/June, 1994), vol. 5, No. 3, p. 34, fig. 14.

Louise Berge, "Recent Acquisitions in the Classical Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago," in Daidalikow: studies in memory of Raymond V. Schoder, (S.J. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1988), p. 42.

Art Institute of Chicago, Mosaic, Jan/Feb 1984.

Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report 1983-84, p. 47.

Cornelius C. Vermeule, Greek and Roman Sculpture in America: Masterpieces in Public Collections in the United States and Canada (Berkeley, Calif., 1981), p. 246 (old no. 57.1968).

Cornelius C. Vermeule, in The Search for Alexander, (Boston, 1980), p. 119, no. 40.

Guntram Koch, "Au einem Relief in der Alsdorf Collection," Archäologischer Anzeiger (Berlin, 1978), pp. 116-35.

Cornelius C. Vermeule, "Dated Monuments of Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman Popular Art in Asia Minor: Pontus through Mysia," in Studies Presented to George M.A. Hanfmann (Cambridge, Mass., 1971), p. 176 (old no. 57.1968).

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