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Gallery Text

Family is clearly a focus of commemoration here: Hairan’s hand is on his mother’s shoulder, and while each figure has his or her individual inscription, the inscriptions connect the deceased to one another and to a wider family network. Ba’altega wears a full set of jewelry for her tomb portrait, and in her left hand she holds a spindle and distaff, which are emblems of female industry. Her two sons carry evidence of the city’s (and perhaps the family’s) agricultural wealth: Šim’on holds a bunch of grapes, and Hairan has a cluster of dates dangling from his left wrist.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Funerary Relief of a Woman and Two Children
Work Type
bust, sculpture
c. 150 CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Palmyra (Syria)
Roman Imperial period, Middle
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3710, North Arcade
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
71.5 cm h x 56.5 cm w x 27 cm d (28 1/8 x 22 1/4 x 10 5/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: Ba'altega, daughter of Hairan. Alas! Si'mon her son.; Hairan, her son.
[Market, Damascas, (by 1907)], sold; to Alden Sampson (New York), Richard Norton (Cambridge, MA), and Edward Waldo Forbes (Cambridge, MA) (1907-1908), gift; to the Fogg Museum, 1908.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Alden Sampson, Richard Norton, and Edward W. Forbes
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Published Catalogue Text: Stone Sculptures: The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums , written 1990

Palmyrene Sepulchral Relief

The surfaces are in good condition. The forefinger of her left hand is chipped. There is a crack across the torso below the left arm. Some red paint remains in the inscriptions.

The relief depicts a woman in elaborate costume flanked by two children above, left and right. The monument has been dated by Harald Ingholt. The woman in the center is touching the edge of her veil with the usual gesture of her raised right hand; she holds a ceremonial object, like a cord with pomegranate tassels, against her upper stomach with the left hand. She wears jewelry where it is possible for display, from gold bands in the hair to triple-pendant earrings, to four different types of necklaces, to bracelets on both wrists, and, finally, to rings on her fingers.

The children behind her seem to be a young girl with a necklace or apron of fruits, on her right, and a slightly older boy, a ceremonial tassel in his left hand, on her left.

There are three inscriptions on the relief. The one belonging to the woman is located to the right of the veil and extends to the left side of the head of the child on the right. It reads "daughter of Hayran, Alas!" The inscription to the right of the child on the right, belongs to that child and reads "Hayran, her son." The inscription on the left, belonging to the child on the left, reads "Simon, her son."

A head of a lady carved in the same style but with hair arranged somewhat differently has been placed by Harald Ingholt in Group II of the Palmyrene funerary monuments and dated about A.D. 150—200 (Comstock, Vermeule, 1976, p. 258, no. 404).

Cornelius Vermeule and Amy Brauer

Publication History

Waldemar Déonna, "Collections archeologiques et historiques, Collections Fol, Salle des Armures, Collections lapidaires", Genava, ville de Geneve bulletin du Musee d'Art et d'Histoire (1923), vol. I, p. 52

Waldemar Déonna, "Monuments Orientaux du Musee de Geneve", Syria, Revue d'Art Oriental et d'Archeologie (1923), no. 4, p. 231

George H. Chase, Greek and Roman Sculpture in American Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1924), pp. 190-191, fig. 242

Harald Ingholt, Studier over palmyrenske skulptur, C.A. Reitzel (Copenhagen, Denmark, 1928), pp. 132, ps 374, 158

Edward Waldo Forbes, Yankee Visionary, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1971), The Checklist, p. 150

Cornelius C. Vermeule III, Greek and Roman Sculpture in America, University of California Press (Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA, 1981), p. 380, no. 329

Cornelius C. Vermeule III and Amy Brauer, Stone Sculptures: The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 163, no. 149

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/Handbook (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008)

[Reproduction Only], Persephone, Vol. 11, No. 1, Spring 2011, p. 14.

Maura K. Heyn, The World of Palmyra, ed. Andreas Kropp and Rubina Raja, Det Kongelige Danske videnskabernes selskab (Copenhagen, 2016), pp. 196-198, fig. 2

Exhibition History

Roman Gallery Installation (long-term), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/16/1999 - 01/20/2008

Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/22/2007 - 01/20/2008

Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011

32Q: 3710 North Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at