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Amphora of alabaster

Grandjacquet Antonio Guglielmo

(Reugny 1731 - Rome 1801)

Dated by one payment to 1783, the amphora was executed by the Burgundian sculptor Guglielmo Antonio Grandjacquet, who worked in Rome in the second half of the 18th century as a restorer of antiquities. He also produced imitation antique artefacts, both in the Vatican and in the circle of Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

The amphora, with a moulded base, has an ovoid body with a low neck, two tall symmetrical handles and a hemispherical lid with a pointed knob at the top. It rests on a porphyry plinth of a later date.

Here Grandjacquet was able to make the most of the decorative quality of the stone’s natural markings, which he used to highlight the centre of the main body and follow the amphora’s outer curvature. It was precisely these creative abilities and his skill in working with marble that earned the sculptor the esteem of Prince Marcantonio Borghese and the architect Antonio Asprucci, who entrusted him with several commissions at the Villa Pinciana.

Object details

alabastro fiorito
84 x 42 cm

Prince Marcantonio IV Borghese, 1783; Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C, p. 50, no. 127; Purchased by the State, 1902.

  • 2011-2012 Roma, Galleria Borghese


The amphora has a moulded foot, an ovoid body with a low neck, and two tall symmetrical handles. The lid is hemispherical with a pointed knob at the top. The porphyry plinth on which it rests is a later addition. It was placed in the rectangular niche behind the Hermaphrodite as early as 1796 (Lamberti, Visconti 1796, II, p. 38).

A document conserved in the Borghese Archive, relating to a payment of 40 scudi for a modern alabaster vase, made according to ancient usage, and empty inside (Di Tomassi 2011, p. 310), places its execution in 1783. For the form, Guglielmo Antonio Grandjacquet may have been inspired by two cinerary urns conserved in the Museo Pio-Clementino (Faldi 1954, p. 56 no. 53), where he was working in the mid-1770s restoring antiquities and producing imitation antique artefacts (Carloni 2002, pp. 518-519).

The amphora is striking for its masterful workmanship, the ability to exploit the stones natural flecks, placing them in such a way as to highlight the centre of its body and accompany its outer curvature, emphasising its balanced oval shape. Thisalabaster with floral shaped markings, alabastro fiorito, was well known to the Romans who quarried it from the Republican age from Hierapolis, todays Pammukkale in Turkey, to use for marble wall and floor incrustations, column shafts and statuary objects (Marchei 1997, p. 142).

His work as a restorer of antiquities, which he also carried out on behalf of Giovanni Battista Piranesi - together with the sculptors Francesco Antonio Franzoni and Lorenzo Cardelli - allowed Grandjacquet to experiment with marbles of different grains and hardnesses and to develop considerable creative skills (Carloni 2002, p. 519). These characteristics attracted many grand tour travellers to his clientele and earned him the appreciation of the Roman aristocracy, in particular Prince Marcantonio Borghese. For the prince, he also made the vase now in Room 2 (inv. CXXXII) at the Villa Pinciana and some works for the Egyptian room, including the famous Isis in basalt and alabaster, sold to Napoleon in 1807 and now in the Louvre.

Sonja Felici 

  • L. Lamberti, E.Q.Visconti, Sculture del palazzo della Villa Borghese detta Pinciana, Roma 1796, II, p. 38.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, p. 100.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno MDCCCXXXVIII. Parte seconda moderna, Roma 1841, p. 921.
  • Beschreibung der Stadt Rom, a cura di E.Z. Platner, III, 3, Stuttgart-Tübingen 1842, p. 250.
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  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 16.
  • I. Faldi, Galleria Borghese. Le sculture dal sec. XVI al XIX, Roma 1954, p. 56.
  • M.C. Marchei, Alabastro fiorito, in Marmi antichi, a cura di G. Borghini, Roma 1997, pp. 142-143, fig. 5e.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 145.
  • R. Carloni, Grandjacquet Guillaume-Antoine, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 58, Roma 2002, pp. 518-521.
  • M. Minozzi, Biografie degli artisti della decorazione settecentesca, in Villa Borghese, Milano 2002, pp. 177-185, in part. p. 180.
  • C. Di Tomassi, scheda in I Borghese e l’antico, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Borghese, 2011-2012), a cura di A. Coliva, M.-L. Fabréga-Dubert, J.-L. Martinez, M. Minozzi, Milano 2011, pp. 310-311, cat. 34.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008629, Castiglioni F., 1980; aggiornamento Felici S. 2020.