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Kantharos vase with a representation of Winter

Laboureur Massimiliano

(Rome 1739 - 1812)

Cardelli Lorenzo

(Roma 1733 ca. - 1794)

A putto wrapped in drapery is seated on a sled, which he steers with the help of two sticks and is pulled by two others and pushed by a third. The scene continues beyond the handle on the other side of the vase, where one putto has slipped to the ground, another runs and the third adjusts the laces of the skates that, like the others, he is wearing to glide better on the ice. In the background of both scenes is a bare tree on the left.

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 ovules 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
100 x 70 cm

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.


A group of putti are playing in a winter landscape. Some are being pulled on a sled, some are skating on ice; one of them has lost his balance and fallen to the ground. The putti move against a smooth background, suggesting ice beneath their feet and a clear sky behind them. The allegorical depiction of winter, unlike those of the other seasons, which according to an ancient tradition celebrate the gifts offered by nature to mankind, here focuses on the play of the putti who, during the period when the flora is dormant, pass the time waiting for the first blossoms by frolicking on the ice.

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. Laboureur, who created the bas-relief figures, also shows that to achieve this he looked to works of the same genre by François Duquesnoy (Faldi, 1954, p. 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 Daphne and Apollo Room, 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 12/01008668; Castiglioni F., 1980; aggiornamento Felici S., 2020.