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The Portland Vase: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Mysterious Roman Treasure Paperback – 1 Aug 2005

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4.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews from Amazon.com

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Product description

About 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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great story 3 Sept. 2011
By John E. Mosley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I saw the Portland Vase in London many years ago and became intrigued by its history. It's amazing to think that this little vase might have once been owned by Caesar Augustus. The story is fascinating and the book tells it well. I thoroughly enjoyed it as a historical mystery.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 22 Feb. 2015
By Mary L. Dewing - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this non-fiction book. It is well written and it tells an astonishing tale.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The History of the Greatest Roman Glasswork 13 Oct. 2004
By Rob Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Prospective buyers of the most expensive artworks are always told to examine the provenance of an object before buying. There are few works that can have the exclusive and eccentric list of owners as the Portland Vase has had. One of the most famous of ancient artworks, and now in the British Museum, it has fascinated historians, poets, mythologists, and potential owners ever since it came to light (probably by a grave robber in Rome) in 1582. In -The Portland Vase: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Mysterious Roman Treasure_ (HarperCollins), Robin Brooks has given a biography of a unique object, not only telling its history and about the lives of those who owned and held it, but also about the centuries of unresolved argument about what the figures on the vase mean. It is an intriguing story that weaves through much of European history.

The vase itself is a little object, something less than ten inches tall. It is not pottery, like most ancient vases, but blue glass, decorated with white figures of classical male and female nudes. The argument about who they are includes Jupiter and Venus among the most frequently sighted, with Orpheus and Eurydice, Pluto, Castor and Pollux, and a host of others (including, anachronistically, the physician Galen). Once the vase left the family of Pope Urban VIII (sold to pay gambling debts) it belonged eventually to the successive Dukes of Portland. The fourth duke leant it to the British Museum, where it was smashed by a confused visitor in 1845. The 200 pieces and smaller shards were gathered up, and painstakingly glued together by the best restorer in the land. The vase is timeless, but repairs are temporary; it has been dismantled and re-repaired in 1949 and again forty years later.

The vase's story, told here with eagerness and amusement, is one full of surprises and brushes with famous admirers like Wedgwood, Keats, and Blake. There are three sections to the book, consisting of "The Lip" (the prologue), "The Body" (consisting of nineteen "fragments" where most of the history is given) and "The Base" (consisting of an epilogue). There thus does not seem to be any missing chapter, and the base of the vase, a separate piece, is discussed at different points within the fragments. There is much to be learned here about inheritance practices, tourism, museum culture, and art markets. The sixth duke asked for the vase back in 1929, when world finances were crashing, so he could sell it. It was expected to fetch at least £50,000, but failed, and went back to the museum. The seventh duke offered it for sale to the museum in 1944, for a song, £5,000, and there it remains. As Brooks writes, "Presumably the vase will stay in the museum until civilization, or London, or both, come to an end."
5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars mystery missing chapter 30 Sept. 2004
By B. Shushan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This was a great read - absolutely first class apart from a bunch of typos and the missing last chapter - there is a wonderfully easy to read, full of interesting connections narrative all the way to the last chapter, with a title page "The Base" but no chapter following. I was woefully disappointed as the base contains a carving so different from the rest of the vase and cannot possibly be a part of the original. Ah well, one is becoming accustomed to errors in typing - I suppose missing chapters are just the next step in slovenly publishing.
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