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Candelabrum with Bacchic Decoration

Roman art

This candelabrum is composed of fragments that were put together in the modern period, the ancient parts of which include the drum decorated with acanthus spirals and the shaft, embellished with an elegant strigil motif closed at the top and bottom with two acanthus wreathes oriented upward. The sculpture was mentioned in 1832 in Room V and, in 1840, in the portico. For the reopening of the Museo Borghese in 1997, it was moved to the salon, where it remains today.

Although heavily restored in the nineteenth century, the ancient fragments seem datable to between the first and second centuries CE.

Object details

I-II secolo d.C.
white marble
height cm 325

Borghese Collection, cited for the first time in Room VI by Nibby in 1832 (p. 107); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese (1833, C., p. 50, no. 135). Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1828 – c. 1831 - reassembly and fill of parts
  • 1962 - Ermenegildo Pedrazzoni
  • 1995 - Abacus of Nicoletta Naldoni and Gerlinde Tautschnig


This sculpture was mentioned in Room VI by Nibby in 1832: ‘in mezzo alla sala ergesi un gran candelabro di marmo lunense, alto palmi 15, tutto compreso, ornato di maschere, arabeschi, fogliami’ (‘in the middle of the room stands a large candelabrum in Luni marble, 15 palmi high, total, decorated with masks, arabesques and leaves’; p. 107). In 1840, it was moved to the portico, where it is listed in the Indicazioni as a ‘gran candelabro di marmo lunense’ (‘large candelabrum in Luni marble’; 1840, p. 21, no. 1; 1854 p. 5, no. 1). Before the museum reopened in 1997, the sculpture was moved to the salon, where it remains today.

The candelabrum was created by combining various ancient and modern fragments in, according to Moreno, in the nineteenth century (Moreno, Viacava 2003, pp. 133–135, no. 100). The ancient components are, in all probability, the drum, decorated with a border of acanthus spirals, and the shaft with a strigil motif enclosed between two acanthus wreaths. The modern elements seem to be the polygonal plinth, the base decorated with masks, the drum embellished with gadrooning and the relative frames, the band with masks and lions, the truncated cone with two registers of upside-down water leaves, the wreath of leaves in the same position with a small kyma, the crown with acanthus leaves turned towards the right and the flower bud above. In an eighteenth-century drawing by Percier and Fontaine, the drum is beneath a similar candelabrum (inv. XXX) in the Borghese Collection (Percier, Fontaine 1809, p. 18, pl. XX). The modern gadrooning seems to have been modelled on that sculpture. When the pieces were put together in the nineteenth century, it was decided to use a few ancient pieces in each, possibly from a single original monument.

The foliate decoration on the drum is a series of entangled acanthus shoots that end in a four-petal rosette.  The racemes emerge from an acanthus head that repeats every two spirals. The shaft decorated with an incised strigil motif is bordered at the top and bottom with acanthus leaves in low relief and oriented upwards. This decoration is comparable to that of a pillar in the Palazzo dei Conservatori (Stuart Jones 1926, p. 223, no. 20) and another that was found in 1875 on the Esquiline Hilly (Visconti 1876, p. 248, no. 36).

The arbitrary modern reassembly complicated the accurate interpretation of the ancient fragments, which seem to be datable to between the first and second centuries CE.

Giulia Ciccarello

  • Ch. Percier, P.F.L. Fontaine, Choix des plus célèbres maisons de plaisance de Rome et de ses environs, Paris 1809, p. 18, tav. XX.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, p. 107.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano della Villa Borghese, Roma 1840, p. 21, n. 1.
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, Roma 1841, p. 912, n. 1.
  • Indicazione delle opere antiche di scultura esistenti nel primo piano del Palazzo della Villa Borghese, Roma 1854 (1873), I, p. 5, n. 1.
  • L. Visconti, Elenco degli oggetti di arte antica, scoperti e conservati per cura della Commissione Archeologica Municipale dal 1 Gennaio a tutto il 31 Dicembre 1875, in “Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma, Roma 1876, pp. 221-238, in part. 248, n. 36.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 9.
  • P. Gusman, L’art décoratif de Rom de la fin de la République au IV siècle, II, Paris 1909, tav. XX.
  • H. Stuart Jones, A catalogue of the ancient sculptures preserved in the municipal collections of Rome: the sculptures of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Oxford 1926, p. 223, n. 20.
  • G. Giusti, The Borghese Gallery and the Villa Umberto I in Rome, Città di Castello 1928, p. 23.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (III Ed.) Roma 1954, p. 5.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, p. 102.
  • C. C. Vermeule, Hellenistic and Roman Cuirassed Statues, Boston 1980, nn. 20 e 35.
  • H. U. Cain, Römische Marmor Kandelaber, Mainz 1985, p. 206, n. 25.
  • A. González-Palacios, La stanza del Gladiatore, in “Antologia di belle arti”, 43, 1993, p. 28.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 43.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 133-135, n. 100.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008289, P. Moreno 1976; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.