Architect and draughtsman Giovanni Battista Borra was born on 27 December 1713 in Dogliani, Piedmont. From 1733 to 1736 he studied under Baroque architect Bernardo Antonio Vittone and produced ten plates for his teacher’s Istruzione elementari per indirizzo de’giovani allo studio dell’architettura civile. He met classical scholar Robert Wood in Rome, and joined his 1750/1 expedition to Asia Minor and Syria as its architectural draughtsman.
They recorded the ancient Roman ruins of Palmyra and Baalbek. In 1751 Borra travelled with Wood to England and used his sketchbooks to produce the original drawings for Wood’s The Ruins of Balbec and The Ruins of Palmyra. Published in 1753 and 1757 (in English and French editions), these studies were among the first systematic publications of ancient buildings. Both works influenced neoclassical architecture and their images led to similar motifs becoming fashionable for interior decorations in both England and Italy.
From 1752 to 1760 Borra carried out commissions for English patrons, including Norfolk House at no. 31 St James’s Square (destroyed in 1938; its Music Room is reconstructed at the V&A). He died in November 1770, possibly in Turin.