Galleria Borghese logo
Search results for
No results :(

Hints for your search:

  • Search engine results update instantly as soon as you change your search key.
  • If you have entered more than one word, try to simplify the search by writing only one, later you can add other words to filter the results.
  • Omit words with less than 3 characters, as well as common words like "the", "of", "from", as they will not be included in the search.
  • You don't need to enter accents or capitalization.
  • The search for words, even if partially written, will also include the different variants existing in the database.
  • If your search yields no results, try typing just the first few characters of a word to see if it exists in the database.

Green granite vase

Grandjacquet Antonio Guglielmo

(Reugny 1731 - Rome 1801)

The amphora-shaped vase has a foot with a circular base with baccellations, the body decorated on the shoulder and in the undercup with lanceolate leaves and a plant frieze in the upper half. The double volute handles depart from the body with two masks and are terminated at the top by Egyptian faces. The lid echoes the decorative motif of the baccellations on the foot and has a knob with four heads, with the typical pharaoh’s headdress.

Antonio Guglielmo Grandjacquet was commissioned to make this extraordinary piece in granito verde minuto borghesiano - a very rare stone that takes its name from this artefact, which is the only known example - and executed it between 1783 and 1787.

In the early 19th century, Camillo Borghese had the vase transported to his residence in Turin; on the return journey to Rome in 1814, it was intercepted on the island of Elba by Napoleon and was the focus of negotiations to obtain its return.

Object details

granito verde minuto borghesiano
height 82 cm, diameter 43 cm

Made for Marcantonio II Borghese, 1783-1787 (I. Faldi, Galleria Borghese. Le sculture dal sec. XVI al XIX, Roma 1954, pp. 54-56, cat. 52, docc. I-XII); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C, p. 50, no. 120; Purchased by the State, 1902.

  • 2000 Filadelfia, Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • 2000 Houston, Museum of Fine Arts
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1981-1982 S. Silvestri
  • 2000 SECTILE s.a.s.


Particularly appreciated by contemporaries for its exotic elegance, the vase has the shape of an amphora closed by a lid. Resting on a quadrangular plinth, the foot is moulded with fillets, waves and baccellations; at the top it is cinched by a beaded knot. The body of the vase is rimmed in the undercup and on the shoulder with lanceolate leaves and the upper half has a band with stylised plant motifs. On this band rest the two double handles, decorated with an undulating leaf motif. These terminate at the bottom with two bearded faces and wrap around two medallions at the top, reproducing Egyptian-style heads. The lid, decorated with baccellations, has a four-sided pommel, reproducing human faces with Egyptian headdresses. The base on which it rests is contemporary, and was made of red porphyry, mirroring the same material as the vase: granito verde minuto borghesiano, a very rare stone from eastern Egypt, named after this very artefact (Marchei 1997, p. 230, cat. 78). It had been erroneously referred to in documents as basalt granite, and described by Visconti as “a rare and very precious marble resembling in colour, but much finer than, green porphyry” (1796, II, p. 99). Nibby had defined it as “a stone tending toward ashen green, which I believe corresponds to Pliny’s ophite [serpentine]” (1832, pp. 94-95).

The amphora was carved out of a single block of granite - an extremely hard and difficult material to carve - to a thickness of just over a centimetre, confirming Grandjacquet’s skill in working with “difficult” materials. This was highly prized in Rome, where the fashion of the time placed great value on decorative objects made of rare and generally complex materials to work with (González-Palacios 2000, p. 206, cat. 98).

The fact that the execution of the amphora required considerable technical effort is confirmed by the four years of workmanship detailed in the payments.  Grandjacquet received 750 scudi from the beginning of December 1783 until June 1787, when the vase finally appeared in the Villa Pinciana (Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Archivio Borghese, Filza dei Mandati 9 December 1783, 5848, no. 174; Filza dei Mandati, 1784-1785, 5849, nos. 26-99-19-84-155; Filza dei Mandati, 1785-86, 8090, nos. 96-864-252-667; Filza dei Mandati, 30 October 1786, 5850, no. 107; Filza dei Mandati, 28 June 1787, 5851, no. 69 ; Accounts Notebook, 1785-1786, f. 8661, nos. 514, 521, 573; Accounts Notebook, 1787, f. 8661, no. 622; see Faldi, 1954, pp. 55-56, docs. I-XII).

At the beginning of the 19th century, the amphora was moved to Camillo Borghese’s residence in Turin and, in 1814, during the return journey to Rome, it was seized on the island of Elba by Napoleon together with the Paolina by Canova. In demanding its restitution, Camillo Borghese claimed that “the porphyry vase was valued at two thousand zecchini by Winckelmann”: a wild statement, given that the execution of the vase itself took place twenty years after the death of the German art historian. However, it testifies to the high degree of appreciation the object enjoyed at that time (Faldi 1954, p. 55).

Described by Lamberti and Visconti as a work by Grandjacquet in the Paris Room (1796, II, p. 99), Nibby (1832, pp. 94-95) and Platner (III, 3, 1842, p. 249) mention it, without indicating the author, in the gallery on the ground floor. Venturi (1893, p. 33) said it was executed on a drawing by Canina, followed by De Rinaldis (1935, p. 10) who declared it to be from the early 19th century. Later (1948, p. 17) he instead indicated it as having been executed in 1787 on a drawing and under the direction of Grandjacquet; Della Pergola (1951, p. 10) stated the same thing.

Giulia Ciccarello

  • L. Lamberti, E.Q. Visconti, Sculture del palazzo della Villa Borghese detta Pinciana, Roma 1796, II, p. 99.
  • C. Fea, Nuova descrizione di Roma antica e moderna e de’ suoi contorni, sue rarità specialmente dopo le nuove scoperte cogli scavi: arricchita delle vedute più interessanti, Roma 1820, p. 467.
  • A. Nibby, Monumenti scelti della Villa Borghese, Roma 1832, pp. 94-95.
  • Beschreibung der Stadt Rom, a cura di E. Z. Platner, III, 3, Stuttgart-Tübingen 1842, p. 249.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 33.
  • A. De Rinaldis, Arte decorativa nella Galleria Borghese, in “Rassegna della Istruzione artistica”, 10-11-12, 1935, p. 314 ss.
  • A. De Rinaldis, La R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1935, p. 10.
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1948, p. 17.
  • P. Della Pergola, La galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 10.
  • I. Faldi, Galleria Borghese. Le sculture dal sec. XVI al XIX, Roma 1954, pp. 54-56, cat. 52, tav. 52.
  • M.C. Marchei, Granito verde minuto borghesiano, in Marmi antichi, a cura di G. Borghini, Roma 1997, p. 230, cat. 78.
  • A. González-Palacios, scheda in Art in Rome in the eighteenth century, catalogo della mostra (Filadelfia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2000; Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, 2000) a cura di E.P. Bowron, London 2000, p.206, cat. 98.
  • Carloni R., s.v. in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 58, Roma 2002, pp. 518-521.
  • Scheda di catalogo 1299000381, Berardi P. 2020.