Portland Vase: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Mysterious Roman Treasure

Overview

Created for an emperor, exhumed from a burial ground, coveted, traded, smashed, restored, and stuffed full of incident and intrigue, the Portland Vase -- the most famous of all Roman antiquities -- has captivated everyone who has come into contact with it. Robin Brooks's The Portland Vase is a great romp through history with this fragile, enigmatic vessel, which has touched the lives of an array of compelling characters. Following the vase's journey across Europe over the centuries, we meet the notorious ...
See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (41) from $1.99   
  • New (3) from $4.49   
  • Used (38) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$4.49
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(109)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
0060510994

Ships from: North Dartmouth, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$11.98
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(16)

Condition: New
0060510994

Ships from: Dulles, VA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$45.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(162)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
The Portland Vase

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$7.99
BN.com price
This digital version does not exactly match the physical book displayed here.

Overview

Created for an emperor, exhumed from a burial ground, coveted, traded, smashed, restored, and stuffed full of incident and intrigue, the Portland Vase -- the most famous of all Roman antiquities -- has captivated everyone who has come into contact with it. Robin Brooks's The Portland Vase is a great romp through history with this fragile, enigmatic vessel, which has touched the lives of an array of compelling characters. Following the vase's journey across Europe over the centuries, we meet the notorious tomb-robber-cumbudding-archaeologist Fabrizio Lazzaro, who "discovered" the vase; Pope Urban VIII, who hoped to enhance his image by acquiring it; the Princess of Palestrina, who supported her nasty gambling habit by auctioning it off; the Duchess of Portland, who kept her ownership of the vase a secret; the ceramics genius Josiah Wedgwood, who devoted nearly a lifetime to trying to create a satisfactory reproduction; the Irishman who shattered it and the restorers who have since repaired it; and a host of other politicians, dilettantes, and scam artists. Their stories -- how they came by the vase, how they disposed of it, and how it affected them -- result in a narrative rich with passion, inspiration, and jealousy that spans more than two thousand years.

Made before the birth of Christ, when glassblowing was still a new art, the Portland Vase remains unparalleled in its craftsmanship. Surprisingly, despite the extraordinary technological advances of the past two thousand years, how, exactly, the vase was made remains a mystery. But this is only one of the riddles that still surrounds the vase. Today art historians still can't agree on the identity of the figures depicted on it, or what story these figures are meant to tell. Furthermore, who made the vase? What was it used for? The Portland Vase remains one of the art world's greatest enigmas. A continuing inspiration for artists, poets, historians, and art collectors, the vase now sits quietly in a little glass case in the British Museum -- seemingly inviolate, perfect, eternal.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060510992
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/10/2004
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Brooks is an actor and author living in England. He has written several plays for BBC Radio. This is his first book.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

The Lip
Prologue 3
The Body
Fragment 1 Breaking 9
Fragment 2 Making 20
Fragment 3 Discovery 26
Fragment 4 Cardinal Del Monte and Nicolas Fabri de Peiresc 37
Fragment 5 The Pope 46
Fragment 6 Galileo Galilei and Tommaso Campanella 53
Fragment 7 Cassiano dal Pozzo and the Barberini 62
Fragment 8 James Byres 74
Fragment 9 James Tassie and John Keats 90
Fragment 10 Sir William Hamilton 99
Fragment 11 The Duchess and Mrs. Delaney 123
Fragment 12 Josiah Wedgwood 134
Fragment 13 The Dukes of Portland and the Duchess of Gordon 157
Fragment 14 John Doubleday and Thomas Windus 169
Fragment 15 John, Fifth Duke of Portland and John Northwood 175
Fragment 16 Christie's 188
Fragment 17 Restoration 197
Fragment 18 The Emperor Augustus 210
Fragment 19 Jerome Eisenberg and Susan Walker 217
The Base
Epilogue 227
Bibliography 229
Acknowledgments 235
Index 237
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

The Portland Vase
The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Mysterious Roman Treasure

First Fragment

Breaking

February 7, 1845, could not be described as a quiet day at the British Museum. The museum was halfway through a painful process of total transformation from its original home in the outmoded and outgrown Montague House to the large new building designed by Robert Smirke, which was going up piecemeal in its place. The museum was a building site; Montague House was being slowly demolished, and beside it the new wing, known as the Lycian Gallery, intended to hold treasures from excavations in Anatolia, was rising apace. The site was covered with laborers, great wooden beams of scaffolding, draft animals, and even soldiers to guard the works. Iron wall ties were being forged in situ, a rather rickety-looking contraption called a "traveler" conveyed massive blocks of Portland stone (no relation) about the site, and top-hatted supervisors stalked through the confusion. The Keeper of Manuscripts, Frederic Madden, was still living with his family (including a very pregnant wife) in what was left of the old buildings. He complained of the "insufferable dirt and noise." His water supply had been cut off. Rats and bugs, fleeing the demolition, infested his apartments. The western wall of the building was leaning at an angle that left him "in continual dread of its falling down" and burying him and his family in its ruins.

The new structures were no safer than the old. A contemporary artist recorded an accident during the building of the Lycian Gallery during which a five-ton girder that was being hoisted up to the roof -- a process that took four hours -- broke loose and crashed to the ground, breaking into fragments but mercifully missing the workmen.

In all this chaos, the business of the museum went on as best it could. The vase sat under its glass cover in Gallery 9, and at the end of a freezing winter afternoon a handful of visitors strolled about, enjoying the last look ever taken of the vase in its pristine state. A young man had entered the room, with "something strange in his looks and manner." He waited until the guard had walked out into the larger, adjoining gallery -- Gallery 10 -- then he picked up a large fragment of sculpture from the ancient city of Persepolis that was lying at hand and heaved it at the vase. Had he hit it fair and square, he would have reduced the vase to an irreparable cloud of splinters and dust, but his hand was shaky, his aim was off, and the greater part of the missile hit the floor, leaving a hefty dent in the flagstone. Nevertheless, the solid glass cover was broken through, and the vase itself smashed into more than two hundred pieces. Something that was born under the Caesars and had survived countless generations perished in an instant.

The noise brought the public and the guards running. It brought "officers of the department" from an adjoining room, and they acted with commendable speed, immediately ordering the attendants to close the doors to Galleries 9 and 10. The five members of the public still in Gallery 9 were asked to walk next door, where they were questioned by the Keeper of Antiquites, Edward Hawkins. Four of them, understandably worried that they might be falsely accused of complicity in the outrage, answered promptly. The fifth hung back until directly confronted. "A stout young man, in a kind of pilot coat, with both hands in his pockets before him, replied, when questioned, in a dogged and determined tone, 'I did it.' " He was handed over to a police officer. The attendants began gingerly to clear up the mess. Frederic Madden, summoned by a messenger, appeared to look over what was left of the vase:

On proceeding up to the room where it was exhibited, I found it strewed on the ground in a thousand pieces, and was informed that a short time before a young man who had watched his opportunity when the room was clear, had taken up one of the large sculptured Babylonian stones, and dashed the Vase, together with the glass cover over it, to atoms! The man, apparently, is quite sane, and sober.

For Madden, no democrat, the moral was clear, and he confided it to his journal:

This is the result of exhibiting such valuable and unique specimens of art to the mob! Had the facsimile been shewn to them, and the original kept in Mr Hawkins's room, this irreparable mischief could not have taken place. Indeed as to the mob of visitors, I am so confident that they never regarded it, that if the stone which broke it, were put in its place, it would excite a great deal more attention. It is really monstrous to witness such wanton destruction! I am quite grieved about it. Yet what will be the punishment? Perhaps a fine of a few pounds or a month's imprisonment and he may then come out and destroy something else!

Much has changed, of course, since Madden's day, but there are curators here and there who still find it hard to fight the conviction that the objects in their care belong to them, and not to greasy hoi polloi who so impertinently insist on trampling through the galleries for which their taxes are paying.

A trustee of the museum happened to be on site, looking at manuscripts in Madden's room, and it fell to him to grovel in a letter to the Duke of Portland, who had loaned his vase to the museum, with news of the "most lamentable occurrence which has happened only a few minutes ago within our walls ... I have this minute come from the room, where the attendants are occupied in sweeping up the remnants of what less than an hour ago was one of the noblest ornaments of this great National Collection, and a monument of your Grace's liberality and of the trust you reposed in our safe-keeping."

The Portland Vase
The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Mysterious Roman Treasure
. Copyright © by Robin Brooks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2012

    Logan

    Eyes flucker open

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2012

    Isabella

    Kissed him

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2012

    Lightningstar

    This book has an awesome start now lets see through the rest of the book! Greenwing over here!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)