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Bowl in Rosso Antico Marble with Intertwined Handles

Cardelli Lorenzo

(Roma 1733 ca. - 1794)

This is a splendid bowl in rosso antico marble. The foot, composed of a fillet with torus and cyma recta moulding, supports a stem that is interrupted horizontally by a thin knot and terminates in beak moulding, on which the cyma recta and fillet pattern is repeated. Six peduncle-shaped elements terminating in bluebells are grafted onto the circular bowl; each pair is intertwined to form three handles, which culminate in a floral motif beneath the bowl’s beak-moulded rim. The inside of the bowl shows a motif with large, recurring leaves, whose marked veining in their central portions and wavy edges suggest that they are laurel; these frame a Medusa head in the centre.

The work has been ascribed to Lorenzo Cardelli and dated to 1781-82, based on the interpretation of several payment receipts and stylistic analysis: indeed, the refined design and subtle sculpting show affinities with other works by the artist in the Borghese Collection.

Object details

cm 27 x 48,5

Sculpted for Villa Pinciana, 1781-1782; Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C, p. 49, no. 117; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1996/ 1998 L. Persichelli


The bowl stands out for the imaginative decorative element of the three finely intertwined handles. The inside of the bowl shows an exquisite motif with large recurring leaves, which frame a Medusa head, an apparent allusion to the famous sculpture which at the time formed part of the Rondanini collection.

The expert carving of the marble, the balanced combination of forms inspired by ancient art, and original, delicate decorative elements have led scholars to unanimously ascribe the piece to Lorenzo Cardelli. The artist had his famous studio in Via Condotti, where he restored antique pieces and sculpted decorative works, which even won praise from his colleague Antonio Canova when he visited Lorenzo in November 1779. The attribution is supported by payment receipts bearing his name which were found in the Borghese Archive in the Vatican: although the work in question is not specifically mentioned in them, the receipts date to the same period in which the yellow alabaster bowl (inv. no. CI) was purchased, which was the pendant of our bowl in the Silenus Room (Faldi, 1954, p. 48). On the basis of these details, critics have dated the work to 1781-82, a chronology further supported by the fact that during the early 1780s Cardelli is known to have been involved in the execution of numerous sculptures for Marcantonio Borghese.

The pedestal probably dates to the same period. It has the form of a grooved column with a capital decorated with a palmette motif. A reference to the sculpture in 1873 confirms that it rested on the pedestal in the ground-floor gallery (Indicazione, I, p. 20). Prior to that date, the work was displayed on a table in Room 8 (Lamberti, Visconti, 1796, II, p. 86), together with its pendant, while from 1948 to 2000 it occupied the Egyptian Room.

The elegance of the decorative details is exalted by the red marble used for its execution. This was a stone extracted in antiquity from a quarry located on the promontory of Cape Matapan in the Peloponnese, whose particular colour is the result of the constant presence of haematite. The bowl was carved from a particular high-quality block, whose chromatic uniformity is only interrupted by infrequent veining.

Sonja Felici

  • L. Lamberti, E.Q. Visconti,Sculture del palazzo della Villa Borghese detta Pinciana, Roma 1796, II, p. 86.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, p. 94.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano del Palazzo della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), I, p. 20.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 44.
  • A. De Rinaldis, La R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1935, p. 15.
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1948, p. 30.
  • P. Della Pergola, La galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 20.
  • I. Faldi, Galleria Borghese. Le sculture dal sec. XVI al XIX, Roma 1954, pp. 47-48.
  • P. Venturoli, Cardelli, Lorenzo, inDizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 19, Roma 1976, pp.
  • M.C. Marchei, in Marmi antichi, a cura di G. Borghini, Roma 1992, p.288.
  • A. González-Palacios, Il gusto dei principi, Milano 1993, pp. 245-246.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 181, fig. 16.
  • Scheda di catalogo 1201008622; Castiglioni F.1980; aggiornamento, Felici S.2020.