PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF THE LATE JAIME ORTIZ-PATIÑO
The design for this magnificent urn probably derives from 17th century Italian sources, such as Stefano della Bella's highly influential etchings Raccolta di Vasi Diversi from1646. Made from Egyptian porphyry - a semi-precious stone which has been prized since antiquity for its lustrous colour (the word porphyry in fact derives from the Greek for purple) and incredible durability - the pronounced gadrooning, pleasing contours and rich colour of the urn all serve to make it an incredibly tactile object.
The porphyry itself was probably cut down from an ancient Roman column in the 17th or 18th century, and in its current form represents a remarkable feat of craftsmanship, as carving on this monumental scale would have been technically very challenging. The ancient Romans imported porphyry in enormous quantities from Egypt, using it both in architecture and sculpture. The rich purple hue of porphyry lent itself to Imperial symbolism, which no doubt played a part in its desirability in ancient Rome and later in the Renaissance period, when it's potent symbolism resonated with powerful figures such as the Medicis, Louis XIV, as well as the cardinals de Richelieu and Mazarin.
A related 17th century porphyry urn of almost identical proportions and with a similarly gadrooned base, though with snake handles and a different cover, from the château de Maisons-Laffitte, was exhibited in the Louvre's in 2003 (see P. Malgouyres, op. cit., p.114). Another related urn of almost identical form, but on a slightly smaller scale, was sold Christie’s, Axel Vervoordt, Antwerp, 10-12 May 2004, lot 95 (€209,850).
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