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Oval basin in granite

Cristoforo Stati detto Cristofano da Bracciano

(Bracciano 1556 - Rome 1619)

The basin, with a simple line and no decorative elements, was made of oriental granite, a stone that the Romans imported from quarries in eastern Egypt. It rests on a small column of the same material, with a polished surface and no moulding. We know from the Borghese family accounts that it was purchased by Cardinal Scipione in 1619 from the sculptor Cristoforo Stati, to make a stoup for the small chapel in the Villa Pinciana, located in the hallway between Room 3 and the gallery. Since 1786, the artefact is documented in the sources as being in Room 7 together with another, almost identical artefact made of the same material as its pendant.

Object details

Before 1629
oriental granite
diameter 62 cm

Purchased by Scipione Borghese, 1619 (ASV, AB, 1030, Villa Pinciana 1609-24, Libro della Vigna dell’anno 1619, in Faldi 1954, p. 20, cat. 17, doc. I). Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, C, p. 50, no. 122. Purchased by the State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1996-1998 L. Persichelli


Placed on a smooth column, the oval basin, with an inverted rim, was made from oriental granite. Purchased by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1619 from the sculptor Cristoforo Stati (ASV, AB, 1030, Villa Pinciana 1609-24, Libro della Vigna dell’anno 1619, in Faldi 1954, p. 20, cat. 17, doc. I), the basin was placed in the chapel and used as a stoup, a use documented in 1650 by Manilli (p. 72) and in 1700 by Montelatici (p. 237). Beginning with the Giornale di Belle Arti of 30 December 1786 (p. 310), and then in all subsequent sources, the basin is always mentioned together with another (inv. CCIV) of the same name, in Room 7, where both can still be found.

The move is believed to have taken place in 1783, the year in which the payment for granite for the execution of a new column is documented (ASV, AB, 5848, Filza dei Mandati, 1783, no. 70, in Faldi 1954, p. 20, cat. 17, doc. II). In all probability, it was intended to support the second basin, which was necessary for the symmetry of the room’s layout. For both, the architect Antonio Asprucci, who supervised the renovation of the Villa Pinciana at the end of the 18th century, chose a location in what would become the most famous room of the villa, the Egyptian room, probably due to the colouring of the stone used to make the two basins and the linear forms, which matched the style of the room he had designed.

The material used for both basins is oriental granite, an ornamental stone characterised by the presence of numerous black flecks of different sizes on a greyish white or pinkish background, originating from the Eastern Desert of Egypt. The legend that the column on which Jesus was scourged - preserved at the church of S. Prassede in Rome - was made from this material, is the origin of the name “Granite of the Column”, by which the stone was commonly known.

Sonja Felici