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Kantharos vase with a representation of Autumn

Laboureur Massimiliano

(Rome 1739 - 1812)

Cardelli Lorenzo

(Roma 1733 ca. - 1794)

The body of the vase depicts ten putti divided equally on each of the two portions bordered on the sides by the handles: in one, the putti busy harvesting bunches of grapes interrupt their activity to help one of them get up from the ground. In the other, a putto is pouring the bunches into the vat for another to crush with his feet. The other figures play the tambourine or lie on the ground, probably inebriated.  Both scenes are surmounted by grapevine shoots running below the rim from which numerous bunches of grapes hang.

The vase, which is part of a group of four executed by Massimiliano Laboureur and Lorenzo Cardelli between 1783 and 1785, on the occasion of the renovation of the villa by Marcantonio Borghese, is in the form of a kantharos. From a base with overlapping listels, interlaced webbing and acanthus leaf mouldings, rises a smooth stem tapering upwards, with a crown knot of laurel leaves tied with ribbons. The underside of the bowl is ornamented with baccellations and the body decorated with a continuous bas-relief. The owl-beak rim is decorated with amanita mushrooms and arrows; connected to it by a collar are double handles, the ends of which, wound in spirals of decreasing size, rest on the upper part of the rim.

Object details

statuary marble
cm 100 x 70

Made for Villa Pinciana, 1784-1785 (Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Archivio Borghese, bb. 5848, 5849, 8090); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese,1833, C, p.  47, no. 90. Purchased by the State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1995 - 1996 C.B.C. Coop. a.r.l.


Under a pergola laden with grapes, ten putti are playing and harvesting grapes: some are picking bunches of grapes to pour into a vat and crush them, while others dance to the sound of tambourines and one, fallen to the ground, is helped to his feet.

The scene is an allegorical depiction of autumn, a subject rooted in the Greece of the 4th century BC, a time when the year was divided into four seasons and artists first attempted to create personifications and allegories celebrating the gifts offered to mankind by nature in each of them.

In the series of four vases, of which this is a part, executed in collaboration with Lorenzo Cardelli, a skilled marble carver, and Massimiliano Laboureur, an elegant and sophisticated sculptor, the allegories of the seasons were depicted in Hellenistic style. This style is evident in the activities and games performed by delicate groups of putti, for which Laboureur, who created the bas-relief figures, also shows that he looked to works of the same genre by François Duquesnoy (Faldi, 1954, p. 58). 58).

The shape of the vase is also based on the study of ancient models; Lorenzo Cardelli evidently drew inspiration for it from the late antique cantaro in the quadriporticus of the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere in Rome, which was well known in those years also thanks to an engraving by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1778, I, table 37). The ensemble, elegant and refined, gives shape to the spirit of the recovery of antiquity that inspired the decoration work at the Villa Pinciana, initiated by Marcantonio Borghese in the 1770s and supervised by architect Antonio Asprucci. The absolute quality of the vases is also enthusiastically emphasised in the Giornale delle Belle Arti of 29 October 1785, which reports on the execution of the series: “The work is carried out with a delicacy and diligence worthy of the most beautiful times in Greece” (p. 338).

The Borghese household accounts contain payment orders to Lorenzo Cardelli and Maximilian Laboureur for the execution of the vase series. The former received 280 scudi in February 1785 for “making, emptying and carving four statuary marble vases with their handles” (Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Archivio Borghese, b. 5849, Filza dei mandati, 1784-1785, no. 19; b. 8090, Registro dei mandati, 1785-1786, p. 25 f., no. 95; in Faldi, 1954, p. 58, nos. I and II). A total of 400 scudi were paid to Maximilian Laboureur between 1783 and 1785  “for the bas-reliefs made on four marble vases located in the room of Daphne and Apollo, in the Palazzo di Villa Pinciana” (Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Archivio Borghese, b. 5848, Filza dei mandati, 1783, no. 174; b. 5849, Filza dei mandati, 1784-1785, nos. 108, 119, 162, 181; b. 8090, Registro dei mandati, 1785-1786, p. 156, no. 587; in Faldi, 1954, p. 58, nos. III-VIII).

Made for the Apollo and Daphne Room, the four vases were displayed above four ancient triangular altars (now in the Louvre); since 1888 they have been exhibited in Room 14 on bigio morato marble blocks (Faldi, 1954, p. 58).

Sonja Felici

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  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008670; Castiglioni F., 1980; aggiornamento Felici S. 2020.