These larger than usual exquisite vases are inextricably tied with Grand Tour souvenir traditions, which would not only serve as reminders of a great year abroad but serve as perfect ques for conversation amongst the learned and savvy upper-class families visiting one’s home. From the Roman Republic to Napoleon, a European knew what porphyry implied: Wealth, Technology, Empire and Rome.

Today these imposing decorative urns still manage to be a focal point of any grand interior. The beautiful dark purple bodies are highlighted by delicate and contrasting gilt bronze mounts that ooze classical references with their swags of laurel leaves, imperial swans, frivolous vines bearing fruit and roman rosettes.

Condition: Excellent. Some patina to the bronze mounts; condition consistent with age.

Height: 58.5 x 34 cm

Materials: Marble, Egyptian Porphyry, Bronze

Approx. weight: 45kgs


About the material:

Porphyry is a remarkably hard, durable rock, which in antiquity derived its name from the fact that its intense, dark red colour, speckled with white inclusions, is similar to the purple colour called purpura by the Romans. The name was extended by association to the massif where porphyry was quarried in Egypt, which the Romans called Mons Porphyrites.

The Romans began to quarry porphyry in the First Century BC, employing it in such large quantities that by the Fifth Century AD the quarries were nearly exhausted. Porphyry was used extensively for monumental elements, and it became invested with an Imperial symbolism, perhaps on account of its analogy with the purpura, which from ancient times had been the prerogative of regal dignity. The use of Porphyry was in fact limited by Diocletian to the Imperial family.

This sacred and celebrative significance was felt and appreciated in the Renaissance courts: porphyry was among the materials most sought – after by Sixteenth Century collectors. In Florence, Grand Duke Cosimo I, had a particular liking for this stone and sponsored its use in large-scale sculptural works. Given that the ability to execute large sculptural works in this arduous material had long since been lost, such works represented a remarkable technical accomplishment.

Period 1800-1849
Artist Unknown
Material Bronze, Granite

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An Exquisite Pair of Rare Neoclassical Imperial Porphyry Vases c.1790


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