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Trapezophoron, Double Herm with Masks, heterogeneous fragments arbitrarily assembled in modern times

Roman art

This composition is made up of heterogeneous fragments, of which only the trapezophoron with botanical candelabra and animal paws is truly antique. 

The sculpture was likely put together before 1828, the date in which it was placed near Leda and the Swan with Eros when the exhibition in Room 1 was rearranged during the reinstatement of the antique art collection after Camillo Borghese sold the archaeological collection to his brother-in-law Napoleon.  

Object details

I secolo d.C.
antique yellow marble (trapezophoron); white marble (masks)
altezza cm 86; altezza solo trapezoforo cm 55; larghezza cm 201

Borghese Collection, mentioned in the Nomenclatura of 1828 (Archivio Apostolico Vaticano, Archivio Borghese, b. 348, fasc. 33: Moreno 1997, pp. 91, 112); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, C., p. 44, no. 40. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902. 

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • ante 1828 - Restoration and integration of parts.
  • 1996-97 - Consorzio Capitolino di Elisabetta Zatti ed Elisabetta Caracciolo


This item is mentioned along with a companion piece in the Nomenclatura degli oggetti di antica scultura of 1828 in Room 1 near Leda and the Swan with Cupid: ‘flanking it on either side, two fragments of decorations, one with a herm, the other with a cista mystica’ and further, ‘trapezophoron base; double herm with masks; cista mystica’ (Archivio Apostolico Vaticano, Archivio Borghese, b. 348, fasc. 33: Moreno 1997, pp. 9192, 112). This is a composition of heterogeneous fragments assembled in modern times, probably when the room was redecorated. The trapezophoron is antique, composed of two arched animal paws on the sides and frontal candelabra with a large botanical garland set on top of them together with a modern double herm with masks. The candelabra are decorated with a column-shaped botanical motif formed by a plant that grows out of a bud at the bottom and ends at the top with a flower with curling petals.  

This purely decorative sculpture can be listed among the so-called ‘chimeric’ compositions, created by combining dissonant elements; in this case, some are truly antique and others are antique only in style. 

The refined care of the plastic rendition of the leaves of the candelabra suggests that the antique fragment can be dated to the first century CE.    

Giulia Ciccarello

  • P. Moreno, Museo e Galleria Borghese, La collezione archeologica, Roma 1980, p. 12.
  • P. Moreno, S. Staccioli, Le collezioni della Galleria Borghese, Milano 1981, pp. 101-102.
  • P. Moreno, A. Viacava, I marmi antichi della Galleria Borghese. La collezione archeologica di Camillo e Francesco Borghese, Roma 2003, pp. 148-149, n. 114A
  • P. Moreno, L’antico nella stanza, in Venere Vincitrice, La sala di Paolina Bonaparte alla Galleria Borghese, a cura di C. Strinati, Roma 1997, pp.73-117, in particolare pp. 91-92, 112.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/0147853, P. Moreno 1976; aggiornamento G. Ciccarello 2020.