A pair Napoleon III Egyptian imperial porphyry urns and covers, each with a shaped cover and baluster body on a concave support and square base, applied with high quality ormolu mounts comprising a flower-bud finial, arched foliate handles, an openwork collar and a bound- reed border round the foot. French, c1870.
Footnote: Porphyry is exceptionally dense and has a high feldspar content so that, when polished, it was described as “powdered with bright stars” by Paul the Silentiary, a 6th century member of the Byzantine imperial household (Vasiliev, 1948:5). Purple Porphyry was reserved exclusively for imperial Roman/Byzantine use and royalty were born in a room lined in it – which explains the phrase ‘born to the purple”. Restrictions on quarrying ensured that this stone retained its high value and luxury status.