"The top of the cover takes the form of a bed with pillows, and a man and his wife embrace under a large sheet. She wears a complex earring and he a bracelet of twisted strands. There is no costume visible.
On the long side below the man is a frieze with four pairs of Greeks and Amazons in combat. A bead-and-reel molding appears above, and simple pilasters frame the scenes on the corners. The other side, the long panel below the woman, has only a plain fillet molding above, suggesting it was the back of the sarcophagus proper. The frieze features two pairs of horsemen and foot soldiers in combat, with a warrior in fighting pose on foot in the center.
On the left end (facing the frieze with Greeks and Amazons), two lions bring down a bull. The bead-and-reel molding is seen above. On the right end, two griffins are tearing into a fallen horse.
The condition is, generally speaking, excellent, with some traces of a dark brown deposit and an overall light brown to yellow patina.
The sarcophagus is inscribed for Thanchvil Tarnai and her husband Larth Tetnies, son of Arnth Tetnies and Ramtha Vishnai."
This sarcophagus lid is one of my favourite artefacts in the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. It's in fact one of many similarly executed sarcophagi from the Etruscan civilisation, showing husbands and wives embracing upon the lid of the tomb. The description on the MFA website tells us:
What this description – as useful as it is – doesn't capture, however, is both the incredible skill of the sculpting, and the emotional effect of the two figures represented here. To achieve the illusion of such a fine sheet draped over the couple, including the folded material and the subtle suggestion of their limbs beneath, is a real skill and a testament to the achievements of Etruscan art. At the same time, the locked gaze of the couple, and the way in which their arms knot around each other – hers on the back of his neck, his on her left shoulder – hints at something more than simply a stock representation of a deceased husband and wife. For me, it's one of those uncanny instances which I discussed during the podcast on the Doryphoros, where we're both made aware of the situated culture of the work of art, and, at the same time, find it speaking to us on a direct, emotional level that seems to transcend time and place.