Piranesi Vase  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Piranesi Vase or Boyd Vase is a reconstructed colossal ancient Roman marble calyx krater on three legs and a triangular base, with a relief around the sides of the vase. It is 107 inches (2.71m) tall and 28 inches (0.71m) in diameter.

It was produced by the artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi, from a large number of Roman fragments from Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, where Gavin Hamilton was excavating in the 1770s.

The upper part is in the style of the Borghese Vase and it is also influenced by the Torlonia Vase, a celebrated neo-Attic Roman marble that Piranesi knew from the collection of Cardinal Albani, which similarly stands on three lions' legs— which in the case of the Torlonia Vase were 16th-century additions.

The vase was sold as a genuine artefact (an acceptable practice at the time). It is now in the Enlightenment Gallery of the British Museum.

It and the so-called Warwick Vase are among the most ambitious restoration projects in which Piranesi was involved, and were both represented by three plates each in Piranesi's 1778 compilation of etchings, Vasi, Candelabri e Cippi. In parts the vase is a pastiche - its stem and supports are made up of a variety of unrelated ancient fragments supplemented by matching modern parts - whilst in others it is a painstaking, skillful and accurate reconstruction (the frieze uses numerous original fragments to reproduce a scene of satyrs winemaking, taking for a model a Roman altar in Naples that in the 18th century was in the collection of the Prince of Francavilla and illustrated in Bernard de Montfaucon's 1757 Recueil d'Antiquités).

The diary of a Dutch tourist mentions the vase in the Piranesi workshop in 1776. Sometime that year it was acquired by Sir John Boyd during his Grand Tour. He was a wealthy West Indies proprietor and director of the British East India Company, and displayed it in the landscaped grounds of his neo-Palladian mansion Danson House at Bexley, where the dining room's wallpaintings took up the vase's Bacchic themes.

It was purchased from Boyd's eventual heirs and Hugh Johnston by the British Museum in 1868. It was exhibited in the Orangery of Kensington Palace from 1955 to 1976.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Piranesi Vase" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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