O. Louis Mazzatenta/National Geographic Image Collection

Elegant and aristocratic, the terracotta Sarcophagus of the Married Couple is the centerpiece of the Villa Giulia Museum in Rome. Sculpted at the end of the sixth century B.C.E. in the coastal city of Caere (modern Cerveteri), the sarcophagus captures a delicate moment shared by a loving couple. The relaxed ease of this husband and wife, however, contrasts with the backbreaking contortions of the pose they assume: Their legs stretch out along the length of the coffin, forcing their upright torsos to twist 90 degrees to meet the viewer’s eye.