Egyptian porphyry has always been a prized possession throughout history, and this large, impressive pair of obelisks was made to showcase the famed purple stone while also highlighting the talent of the Italian bronzier who crafted the griffin mounts. Combining hardstones with gilt bronze was a popular aesthetic in Rome at the end of the eighteenth century and was practiced by the top bronziers in Rome at the time: Giuseppe Valadier and Francesco Righetti. Both Righetti and Valadier used similar griffin figures in their designs. A similar griffin support as a tripartite base to a tazze is illustrated Alvar Gonzáles-Palacios, Il Gusto Dei Principi, Milan, 1993, fig. 573. The tazze is part of an elaborate surtout de table made by Valadier now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. A candelabra with a base composed of griffins holding garlands in their beaks was created by Righetti and is illustrated ibid., fig. 525.
The son of a silversmith, Giuseppe Valadier (1762-1839) worked as a furniture designer, bronzier, silversmith and architect. Working mainly in Rome and the Papal states, Valadier’s clients included the leading politicians, ambassadors, aristocrats, and even the Pope. Later in his career, Valadier began to focus more intensely on architecture and was named architetto camerale by Pope Pius VI in 1786. Francesco Righetti, like Giuseppe, studied under Giuseppe’s father, the silversmith Luigi Valadier. Righetti focused on the reproduction of objects from antiquity and copying Roman sculptures in bronze. His workshop became so prolific in reproductions that he created a catalogue from which clients could choose their desired model and its size. Like Valadier, Righetti had a close relationship with Pope Pio VI for whom he became fonditore camerale. Righetti’s foundry was well known for its quality thus artists, such as Antonio Canova, came to him for their productions. The foundries were continued by his son and grandson upon his death.