Funerary Urns from Rome, Japan, and Prince

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I saw an article in the NY Times the other day that was a one year follow-up to the death of Prince, and the image accompanying the article showed the urn that holds his ashes. As can be expected with something from Prince, it’s not your ordinary funerary urn; it’s a model-sized reproduction of his compound, Paisley Park.

Seeing this, I was curious to do a little comparison of visual styles of funerary urns over time, so I pulled up a couple examples, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Below left we have a “Marble cinerary urn” which is Roman and from the 1st half of the 1st century A.D. The Met notes that this is an unusual urn, because the principle theme of the imagery is the spoils of war, including piles of weapons and armor.

The urn below right is referenced by the Met as “Funerary Urn (Hunping),” and dates from the Western Jin dynasty (265–316 A.D.). The theme of this urn is described as “a heavenly palatial structure held aloft by a flock of birds.” Additional animals, including an elephant and a deer, surround the palace, along with a row of Buddhas seated in meditation on lion thrones with lotus petals.

Now that I see both of those, Prince’s urn with Paisley Park (seen below the other two examples) doesn’t seem so outlandish or unusual … what do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below.

comparing Prince's Paisley Park urn to ancient urns from Rome and Japan

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