Base for a decorative shaft (candelabrum)

Early Imperial Period
about 30–20 B.C.

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 299; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 113 (additional published references).


Height (without plinth and cap): 103.5 cm (40 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble, from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens

On View

Classical Roman Gallery (Gallery 213)


The Ancient World


Architectural elements

This decorative base of a candelabrum with figures of Polykleitan statues in relief on its three panels was originally surmounted by a tall, round shaft carved with foliage or vegetal designs and a marble basin to hold a fire or a terminal such as a pine cone. Each side of this base bears a relief carving with a representation of a different classical Greek sculpture. These reliefs help date the base to the classical revival in art that took place in Augustan Rome.

Griffins with horns or “Chimaeras” support the corners, with rosettes, palmettes, double spirals, and lotus flowers carved in lower relief on the surfaces between. The “statues,” on tiny plinths, comprise (A) a youth wearing a chlamys from his left shoulder and a petasos hanging at his back; (B) a youth seen in three-quarters view from the back, a chlamys hanging from his left arm; and (C) a nude youth in front view. All three held objects in their raised hands, but these are now missing.

A number of similar Neo-Attic bases of the Augustan period are known. This is one of the few with statuesque gods, heroes, or athletes as subjects of its decorative reliefs. “A” seems to correspond with a Polykleitan Hermes, and “C” is a copy of the Doryphoros by that sculptor. Because of the timeless popularity of the motifs and the high quality of carving, it is difficult to date this ensemble. The piece may have stood in a temple, public building, private villa, or even in a funerary context.

The plinth and the cap are modern. Various parts of the decorative enrichment and of the figures have been broken off; there is a dowel hole in at least one break.

Scientific Analysis:
Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.674 / delta18O -6.343, Attribution - Pentelikon, Justification (Petrographic Analysis) - maximum grain size (1.1mm), accessory minerals (dolomite).


According to a letter from Edward Perry Warren, dated August 28, 1896, it was found in 1856 while a house was being built in the Borgo Nuovo, Rome; by date unknown: with Edward Perry Warren from the collection of the Countess Maria della Porta Rodiani Carrara, Palazzo Lorenzana, Rome; purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren, October 1896

Credit Line

Catharine Page Perkins Fund