Relief with a parturition scene
400 BCE — 300 CE.
25 × 34 × 6.3 cm.
Inv. No. A129245.London, Science Museum

Relief with a parturition scene.

400 BCE — 300 CE.
25 × 34 × 6.3 cm.
Inv. No. A129245.

London, Science Museum.

Private collection.
Reported origin from excavations at Ostia. Purchased in Rome in 1932 along with other items (inv. A129246, A113241) by Captain Peter Johnstone-Saint, a collector working for Sir Henry Wellcome. On the three cards a name can be read in relation to the purchase: Racchi, Rocci and Rocchi — this may be Mariano Rocchi (1855, Perugia — 1943, Roma). The object form part of the Wellcome Collection of Medical Objects and are on permanent loan to the Museum (Science Museum’s Small to Medium Object Store, Blythe House, London) from the Wellcome Trust (Reg. No. 17/1936).
A woman lying on a bed, giving birth to two or perhaps three children. She is assisted by three women. It is noteworthy that the woman giving birth is lying down. It has been said that in antiquity women gave birth only in a seated position (cf. a relief in the facade of tomb 100 of the Isola Sacra necropolis). However, in the early second century AD Soranus of Ephesus mentions the “general rule that extraction of the fetus in difficult labor must take place with the woman lying down” (Gynecology book II, translation Temkin, p. 72; see Google Books).

For details of the origin, see

(cc) 2021. Photo: Science Museum Group Collection Online (CC BY-SA 4.0).
© Photo: Jaron Chubb.
© 2021. Text:
Keywords: γλυπτική sculptura sculpture sculptural scultura skulptur ρωμαϊκό roman romana romano romani römisch römische römisches römischen römischer romain romaine romains romaines κηδεία funeral funerary funeraria funerario begräbnisskulptur beerdigung funéraire tombstone gravestone lapide monumento sepolcrale grabstein pierre tombale ανακούφιση relief rilievo marble marmo marmor marbre μάρμαρο female dress clothes clothing garment abbigliamento femminile damenbekleidung vêtements pour femmes γυναικεία ρούχα hairdo hairstyle pettinatura acconciatura weibliche frisur coiffure féminine θηλυκό χτένισμα girl young woman ragazza mädchen mädel jeune fille κοπέλα pillow cuscino kissen polster oreiller pulvinus μαξιλάρι bed couch letto bett klinê lit couche kline lectus triclinaris κλίνη infant baby infante kleinkind säugling bébé nourrisson enfant βρέφος from ostia da aus de nude donna nuda nackte frau femme nue coverlet bedspread counterpane coperta decke bettdecke couverture parturition scene cildbirth parto geburt entbindung couches accouchement pregnant gestante incinta schwangere enceinte lying down sdraiata liegende allongée midwife ostetrica levatrice hebamme sage-femme the henry wellcome collection collezione sammlung with a of who died in childbirth 17 1936 inv no a129245