The relief, set within an architectural frame, commemorates Hegeso, the daughter of an Athenian citizen. She is shown on the right, seated on a high-backed chair, her feet resting on a stool. Her hair is tied with a ribbon and draped by a thin veil — this is how brides were represented. Her maidservant stands before her in a long-sleeved costume and a characteristic snood, and offers her an open jewellery box. Hegeso is lifting a necklace, once painted, out of the box: the attention of both women is focused on this object. The stele is an outstanding example of the funerary art of Classical Athens, and also a part of Hungarian culture through the poem of Mihály Babits.
The Tomb of Hegeso
On a Greek monument
Two thousand years my love has waited,
lest I come to claim her. Centuries unfurl,
And no loved footstep summons her from rest —
A marble likeness of a grave Greek girl.
See how her gown close cups the eager breast! Almost she breathes.
Who knows what lost thoughts whirl
Through that still head, whose secrets unconfessed
Are irrecoverable as the proffered pearl
She’s in the act of choosing. By her stands
A slave girl who, obediently discreet,
The jewel casket to her mistress hands.
I dream and dream and to my blinded sight
She dresses thus for me, and waits to greet
Her bridegroom hastening for the wedding night.
Translated by Vernon Duckworth Barker