Porphyry support for a water basin

Period: Mid-Imperial

Date: 2nd century A.D.

Culture: Roman

Medium: Porphyry

Dimensions: H. 30 in. (76.2 cm)
width 58 1/4 in. (148 cm)
Weight approx. 900 lbs

Classification: Stone Sculpture

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1992

Accession Number: 1992.11.70


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.