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The Portland Vase

The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Mysterious Roman Treasure

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


For thousands of years an enigmatic and astonishingly beautiful piece of Roman art has captivated those who have come in contact with it.Made before the birth of Christ, the Portland Vase, as it is called, is renowned for both its beauty and its mystery.

In The Portland Vase, Robin Brooks takes us on a vivid journey across Europe and through the centuries, as this delicate piece of glass, less than ten inches in height, passes through the hands of a stunning cast of characters, including the first Roman emperor, Augustus; a notorious tomb raider; a reckless cardinal; a princess with a nasty gambling habit; the ceramics genius Josiah Wedgwood; the secretive Duchess of Portland; and a host of politicians, dilettantes, and scam artists.

Rich with passion, inspiration, jealousy, and endless speculation, the story of The Portland Vase spans more than two thousand years and remains one of the art world's greatest enigmas.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 01, 2004 – The 9 3/4;-inch glass vase, now housed in the British Museum, is a deep opaque blue, overlaid with white glass in which scenes of mythological figures are cut. It is renowned for its delicate beauty, but the meaning of its decorative scenes has not been ascertained and its origins remain mysterious. Brooks, a former actor who writes radio plays for the BBC, explores the theories and controversies surrounding the vase (shown in an eight-page b&w photo insert) in a breezy anecdotal style, focusing on those who have owned the vase and the antiquarians who have studied it. Considered to be the work of a glassblower from ancient Rome (date uncertain), the intact vase was possibly discovered, although there is no real proof, in an ancient tomb outside Rome in 1582. The vase's first recorded owner was Cardinal del Monte of Italy; it then passed into the hands of the Barberini family for 150 years. Later owned by the Portland family, the vase was purchased by the British Museum (after many mishaps) in 1945. Although there is a wealth of interpretation concerning the sculpted scenes on the vase, no one judgment has been accepted. Brooks competently details the three restorations the vase has undergone (it was shattered by a vandal in 1845) and provides an overview of ongoing research.
The Portland Vase
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  • $6.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Art & Architecture
  • Published: Oct 13, 2009
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books
  • Print Length: 272 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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