STONE. Height of each Bas-relief about 2¼ feet.
WE are shown by this bas-relief the two principal sides of a sarcophagus, where, without doubt, a married pair were buried: the sculptor has reproduced their features, together with the most important epoch of their life. The first side represents the two, glowing with youth and beauty, at the solemn moment of initiation. They are naked, according to custom, as is also the hierophant; but the latter is free in his movements: he is no longer ashamed of his nudity, for nature lies underneath him, he has knowledge of sacred things, and he reveals them to the young supplicants. But the latter appear abashed and surprised; they listen devoutly to the sacred words of the hierophant, and keep their hands crossed over the place where modesty would require a covering.
In the background we perceive a Priapus-Hermes, a little bald old man, who holds in his hands a large phallus. The wine-vat, which serves him for a pedestal, and the thyrsus, which rests by his side, sufficiently indicate the Dionysiac mysteries, so called from Bacchus, who was surnamed Dionysus: we shall speak of these more at length in the explanation of Plate VII.
The second side presents a symbolic representation of the ceremonies practised at funerals. A woman is seated on a rock near a tomb. Her head-dress, a kind of turban, indicates mourning; for among the peoples of antiquity, as among the Hebrews in modern times, the custom was to veil oneself and to cover one's head in token of respect or grief: the contrary is the case among Christians. This woman carries in her hands a tragic mask: these masks were likewise employed at the theatre, at festivals, in war, at triumphal solemnities, Bacchanalia, and at funerals.
Near the figure, a kind of post, probably bearing an inscription, indicates the limit of life at which the faithful married pair, whose memory it is desired to honour, met again, after having descended the stream of life together. To the right we perceive a tomb: it is placed under an oak. This tree was properly that of Jupiter, of his mother Rhea, and of Pan; but the Goddess Hecate, the Diana of Hades, also crowned herself with oak-leaves. The shepherds of Arcadia were called acorn-caters, and claimed to be descended from an oak-tree.
Behind the tomb, a youth, whose bust only is seen, holds in his hands a broken wand, an image of the existence just extinguished. He appears to be speaking, and is doubtless pronouncing an eulogium on the defunct couple.