In antiquity, porphyry was highly regarded as a royal stone, because its color was associated with the regal and, in Roman times, imperial use of purple to symbolize rank and authority. In addition, this very hard stone is found only in the eastern deserts of Egypt, making its extraction and transport extremely difficult and costly. Its use in Roman sculpture and architecture was therefore limited. This massive piece is one of a pair of supports that originally carried a deep oblong water basin, probably located in a major imperial bath complex. It exemplifies the opulence of Roman imperial sculpture at its height and is the most sumptuous ancient porphyry carving in an American collection.
[With Stefano Bardini, Florence]; between 1893-1905, acquired by William Waldorf Astor in Italy; until 1983, collection of William Waldorf Astor, later First Vicount Astor of Hever Castle and his descendants; July 1983, purchased by Robin Symes through Sotheby’s, London; [from 1983, with Robin Symes, London]; purchased by Mrs. Barbara Johnson from Robin Symes; until 1992, collection of Mrs. Barbara Johnson, Princeton, New Jersey; acquired in December 1992, purchased through Sotheby's, New York.
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