Monumental Urn

Italian, Rome

Not on view

This monumental Imperial porphyry urn is likely to be the pair to an identical urn (with its lid) formerly in the Spanish Royal Collection, now preserved at the Prado. King Philip IV of Spain, who acquired the urn now at the Prado, was a keen collector of porphyry. His grandson Louis XIV clearly inherited this passion, forming the most significant collection of porphyry objects in Early Modern Europe. The King of France, who compared himself to the rulers of Ancient Rome was well aware of the symbolism associated with Imperial Egyptian porphyry. The use the ‘purple stone’ was tightly controlled by Roman emperors and therefore closely connected to their divine power. Porphyry is also an extremely hard stone, which means that only very skilled sculptors could work on it.

Monumental Urn, Imperial porphyry, Italian, Rome

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