Roman relic unearthed at Blenheim
AN old flowerpot in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, has been found to actually be a Roman sarcophagus worth £300,000.
The 1,700-year-old marble coffin— which features a frieze depicting an inebriated Dionysus, a drunken satyr and other revellers including Hercules and Ariadne—has been out in the rock garden, exposed to the elements and used as a tulip planter, for 100 years; before that, it was used as a trough at the base of a fountain. The discovery was made by chance, when an antiques dealer visited.
Believed to have been brought to Blenheim by the 5th Duke of Marlborough in the 19th century, the 6ft 6in-long sarcophagus is one of the few items the Duke kept hold of after mounting debts led to the sale of his collections. Once home to the earthly remains of a Roman noble, it has now undergone extensive conservation work and is on display inside the palace.
Nicholas Banfield, of Cliveden Conservation, who has overseen the restoration, comments: ‘The piece is actually in remarkable condition considering it has withstood seemingly aggressive environments, particularly that of a fountain receptacle.’