Giovanni Battista Borra was Born on 27 December 1713 in the Piedmont Town of Dogliani.

By Anne Leader

Giovanni Battista Borra was born on 27 December 1713 in the Piedmont town of Dogliani about 37 miles from Turin, where he would spend much of his career. Borra worked as an architect, draftsman, and engineer, but may be best known for a series of drawings made during an archaeological expedition to Asia Minor in 1750 and 1751. While there, he made numerous sketches of the Roman-era ruins at Palmyra and Baalbek, two sites recently attacked by ISIS militants. His drawings, and the prints made thereafter and published in Robert Wood’s books on these and other cities, stand as important records of this damaged cultural patrimony.

For the remainder of the 1750s Borra received a number of commissions for other English patrons, including Edward Howard’s townhouse in St. James Square, London. Howard was the 9th Duke of Norfolk, and his house was built and decorated between 1748 and 1752 according to Borra’s designs.

Borra spent the latter part of his career in Turin, where his chief project was to remodel Guarino Guarini’s Castello dei Racconigi, including a new south facade and interior decoration, much of which was inspired by decorative motifs studied in Baalbek and Palmyra. Borra died in Turin in 1770.


Reference: O. Zoller. “Borra, Giovanni Battista.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press .


View of the Ruined City of Palmyra and the Temple at Palmyra, from northwest, engravings from The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tadmor in the desart [sic] by Robert Wood (London, 1753). University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections

View of the Norfolk House Music Room; Mirror and wall paneling, Norfolk House Music Room. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Doorcase, carved by Jean Antoine Cuenot after Borra’s design for the Great Drawing Room of Norfolk House, 1756, mahogany and pine, painted and gilded. Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Doorcase, carved by Jean Antoine Cuenot after Borra’s design for the Great Drawing Room of Norfolk House, ca. 1755, mahogany and pine, originally painted and gilded. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1964

Constantinople from the Asian shore, ca. 1751, ink and watercolor on two pieces of joined laid paper. Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Shell International and the Friends of the V&A.

Güzel Hisar and the River Maeander, from the East, ca. 1751, ink and watercolor on laid paper. Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Shell International and the Friends of the V&A.

View of Arch from West with Colonnade, rubble, columns at Palmyra, engraving from The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tadmor in the desart [sic] by Robert Wood (London, 1753). University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections

Castello di Racconigi, near Turin

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