Stone basins such as this served as bathing tubs in one or another of the large imperial baths with which Rome was furnished. This example, although undecorated, provides a good impression of the richness and extravagance of imperial patronage. Porphyry was regarded as a stone that had special associations with the emperor, because of its purple color and also because of the great expense of quarrying, transporting, and carving it. Most of the surviving Roman porphyry tubs are to be found in Rome, where they were reused later as sarcophagi in early Christian times.
Until 1983, collection of John Seward Johnson I, Princeton, NJ; inherited by his widow, Mrs. Barbara Piasecka Johnson in 1983. Sold at auction by Sotheby's New York, December 17, 1992, lot 153, consigned by Mrs. Barbara Johnson; acquired by Lewis M. Dubroff, Manlius, New York. The work has been on loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art from Mr. Dubroff since 1993. Mr. Dubroff donated the work to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009.
1992. Antiquities Auction. December 17 1992, New York. lot 153.
Malgouyres, Philippe and Clément Blanc-Riehl. 2003. Porphyre. La pierre pourpre des Ptolémées aux Bonaparte. p. 89, fig. 41, Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux - Grand Palais.
Lightfoot, Christopher S. 2007. "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2006–2007." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 65(2): p. 9.
Del Bufalo, Dario. 2012. Porphyry. Red Imperial Porphyry. Power and Religion. no. L19, p. 166, Turin: Umberto Allemandi & C.