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Bowl in Alabaster

roman school

This bowl was sculpted in striped yellow alabaster, a particular cut of Hierapolitan marble used to exalt the veining of the stone. It has a smooth body and pronounced concavity. The edge is decorated only by a groove that runs along the entire perimeter.

The object was purchased in 1781 by Antonio Asprucci, on behalf of Marcantonio Borghese, from the antiques merchant Giuseppe Rega. Since roughly the mid-19th century it has been displayed as the pendant of the Bowl in Rosso Antico with Intertwined Handles by Lorenzo Cardelli.

Object details

before 1781
striped yellow alabaster
20 x 56 cm

Purchased by Marcantonio IV Borghese in 1781 (ASV, AB, 5846, ‘Filza dei Mandati 1781’, no. 158; 8089, ‘Registro dei Mandati, 1781-1782’, p. 158, no. 747, in Faldi 1954, p. 21, docs. I-II); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1832, C, p. 49, no. 118; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1952 post - Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Firenze


The bowl rests on a low, circular moulded foot. Its inner surface is smooth and markedly curved. A continuous groove runs along the thin, protruding edge.

The material used for its execution is striped yellow alabaster, a particular cut of Hierapolitan marble quarried in such a way as to highlight the striped pattern against the intense yellow ground (Marchei 1997, pp. 142-5, cat. 5).

According to Borghese family accounting records, the bowl was purchased in 1781 by Antonio Asprucci on behalf of Marcantonio Borghese from the antiques dealer Giuseppe Rega for 24 scudi (Faldi, 1954, p. 21, docs. I-II). Faldi wrote that it wasn’t clear whether Rega was also the sculptor, in addition to the seller. From 19th-century sources, we know that Rega was a merchant from Naples and was active in Rome between 1776 and 1788 in the antiques trade. On the other hand, we cannot exclude the possibility that the bowl dates to antiquity: both its thinness and grooved edge render it significantly different from similar objects produced in the late 18th century.

The bowl was first cited in the context of the family collection by Lamberti and Visconti, who listed it among the works in Room 8 in Villa Pinciana (II, p. 86); here it occupied a table together with its pendant, the bowl in rosso antico marble by Lorenzo Cardelli (inv. no. CCXXI). In 1832 Nibby (p. 94) likewise saw it on a table with its pendant. In 1873 it was documented in Room 4 (Indicazione, I, p. 20) and in Room 2 in 1893 (Venturi, p. 27). Since 1951, it has been displayed in Room 9 (Della Pergola, p. 25). The bowl’s surface shows clear signs of breakage from a fall which occurred in 1952; it was later restored by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure of Florence.

Sonja Felici