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Amphora in Breccia

roman school

This is an elegant amphora with a long foot, narrow and slender ovoid body and straight handles. Its elongated shape is highlighted by the subtle markings, similar to veins, of the Skyros breccia, the material used to sculpt the object.

The amphora was probably executed in the last quarter of the 18th century in the context of the renovation of Villa Pinciana carried out by the architect Antonio Asprucci.


Object details

last quarter of the 18th century
Settebassi breccia
52 x 17 cm

Borghese Collection, documented from 1893 (A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Rome 1893, p. 71); purchased by Italian state, 1902.


Resting on a low square plinth and long, moulded foot with a circular base, the amphora is characterised by a rather elongated ovoid body. The symmetrical handles are attached to the neck at right angles; they descend vertically to again meet the body of the vase at its widest point. The hemispherical lid culminates in a knob shaped like a flower bud.

Venturi mentioned the amphora as occupying Room 15 without identifying the artist (1893, p. 71); later Della Pergola located it in the loggia on the first floor. While she dated it to the 17th century, Faldi placed its execution in the late 18th on stylistic grounds, suggesting that it may have been realised during the renovation work on the Villa conducted by Antonio Asprucci (Faldi 1954, p. 21, cat. 20). Far less plausible is the theory that it is among the objects described in entry no. 127, section C, of the 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario (‘a vase in Oriental alabaster and two small breccia vases with small, white marble socles’): on the one hand, there is no reference to an amphora, while on the other it is unlikely that it could be one of the small vases of the cited pair.

The material used to make the object is Skyron or Settebassi breccia, marble with a violet-red ground and long, mostly white streaks. The first name by which the material is known comes from the island of Skyros, where it is quarried; the second is taken from the Villa of Settimio Basso, or Sette Bassi, where numerous fragments have come to light (Marchei 1997, p. 192, cat. 46).

Sonja Felici

  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 71.
  • P. Della Pergola, La galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 38.
  • I. Faldi, Galleria Borghese. Le sculture dal sec. XVI al XIX, Roma 1954, p. 21, cat. 20.
  • M.C. Marchei, Breccia di Sciro o di Settebassi, in Marmi antichi, a cura di G. Borghini, Roma 1997, pp. 192-193, cat. 46.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008683, F. Castiglioni 1980; aggiornamento S. Felici 2020.