Sarcophagus with Noah and the Three Hebrew Youths
Rome, 4th century
Pio-Christian Museum, The Vatican. Inventory # 31471 ex 134
Christians took Noah's story and that of the three youths to symbolize rebirth and salvation, an appropriate theme for a funerary object. The artist links the two stories by continuing the undulations of the water in the wavy lines of the fires and by placing the dove just above the servant. The latter device would suggest that the dove's message of peace can apply even to those who would be God's enemies.
As usual in paleo-Christian art, Noah's ark is a chest with a lid and a hasp. Here Noah looks to the dove with arms outstretched; in the catacombs, he usually looks forward to the viewer with arms raised high.
The youths stand in orant posture, suggesting the prayer they pray while in the furnace (Vulgate Daniel 3:24-90). Their Phrygian caps are a common Roman device for signifying that a man is from the East.
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Photographed at the museum by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.