Bathtubs: The Big, The Bold, and The Beautiful

Courtesy Wikimedia

by Alan Knight

Bathtubs have been symbolic of the so-called “good life” since the days of antiquity. Nero, the infamous Roman emperor who initiated centuries of Christian persecution, probably had one of the nicest bathtubs of them all. It’s on display at the Vatican Museum. Ricky J. McRoskey, who sometimes writes for the Catholic Business Journal, saw it during a visit to Rome. 

“This was no ordinary tub. Crafted at the emperor's behest from some of the heaviest and most expensive marble in the world, the circular sculpture has a roughly 25-foot radius and weighs thousands of pounds.  Perched on curvaceous stone legs, it's smooth, purple, and gorgeous, and essentially looks like a colossal birdbath,” McRoskey wrote. 

“When I looked at Nero's tub, I couldn't help but marvel at its intoxicating magnificence, its size, its opulence, and begin to imagine servants filling the basin with warm water for Nero to bathe in a sea of suds.  How amazing, I thought, would it be to clean off in a bathtub half the size of a bedroom?  How cool would that be?  It was so polished, so deft, so clean, so sleek... So... That's when the word finally came to me: seductive.”

Luxurious bathtubs from Tub King.
Nero wasn’t trying to keep up with the Joneses. He was the guy other Romans wanted to keep up with but probably couldn’t.  According to McRoskey, “One could not take sight of this tub and not want to bathe in it, or at the very least show it off to his neighbors.  It was indeed beautiful.”

The tub was made of purple marble. Purple was the color of royalty, and this type of marble was very desirable for its regal appearance. Purple marble was the hardest available in ancient Rome, and it was prized for monuments and building projects. The dimensions of Nero’s bathtub are not available, but from the pictures it appears to be at least four feet in height. Nero must have had a small ladder to climb in and out of it. 

Extravagant bathtubs have symbolic value and people recognize that. Any man or woman who can spend money on something as frivolous as a fancy and expensive bathtub would have to be successful and prosperous. Because of their symbolic value, bathtubs have been used as props in movies for a long time. There are numerous memorable movie scenes which portray characters living large as they bathe in their beautiful tubs. 

Courtesy Wikimedia
In 1954, iconic sex symbol Marilyn Monroe was filmed taking a luxurious bubble bath in The Seven Year Itch. Somehow, she had gotten her big toe stuck in the spout. Happens all the time, right? The plumber who came to her rescue, a blue collar hero if ever there was one, nervously dropped his wrench in the tub. He was apologetic as he reached around in the water to retrieve it. “That’s alright,” Monroe told him. That scandalous bathtub scene was removed from the film by censors.

In 1964, Cleopatra featured the incomparable Elizabeth Taylor looking her best in a circular bath made of marble. Although the marble was probably not as rare and expensive as the purple marble in Nero’s tub, Cleopatra’s bathtub looked very nice. It appeared to be large enough to fit eight people or more. There was ample room for Cleopatra’s boat and her other floating toys. In one decade, the times, and the standards for censorship of bathtub scenes had changed. Unlike Marilyn’s scene, Liz Taylor’s bathtub scene was not deleted from the final cut of the movie. 

Nearly twenty years later, Al Pacino was featured in a memorable bathtub scene as the violent drug lord Scarface. The tub looked very similar to the one in Cleopatra. Scarface was smoking a cigar and seemed to have it all, including a beautiful wife and a beautiful home with a big beautiful tub. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to be happy with all that he had. While he bathed, he chastised his wife for sitting around all day and told her to get a job as a nurse or something.

A master bathroom in a typical home could never fit a bathtub like Nero’s, or Cleopatra’s, or Scarface’s. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a movie star or a despotic tyrant to take a luxurious bath in a glamorous tub. You don’t have to spend a fortune to install a beautiful and functional bathtub, which could be the centerpiece of your bathroom. A tub like the one Marilyn Monroe appeared in could fit in many bathrooms. You can live large in your own tub in your own home.  Tub King can help.

For example, a traditional rolled top tub can make a statement without breaking the bank.  It brings back the look and feel of the early to mid-twentieth century.  Tubs with cast iron exteriors and porcelain interiors are available in a wide range of colors from Tub King. Legs can be finished in chrome, brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, or in colors to fit any décor.   The rolled rim version comes in lengths of 48 inches, 54 inches, 60 inches or 66 inches.  These tubs are affordably priced with models available for under a thousand dollars. 

Another popular tub that can add a touch of elegance to many bathrooms is the Dual Ended tub.  It has a gentle slope on each end of the tub with a center drain and center faucet holes. It provides perfect balance and comes with a pedestal base or legs in whatever finish the customer prefers. Finally, the Double Slipper tub is a sight to behold.  With a high back on each end of the tub, the Double Slipper hearkens back to a more glamorous era, perhaps the Roaring Twenties. At over 72 inches in length, it can easily accommodate two consenting adults. 
In this article, I discussed Nero’s bathtub, which is on display at the Vatican. I also discussed several other beautiful bathtubs that have been used in movies. Those movies include Seven Year Itch, Cleopatra, and Scarface. I’ve mentioned that a nice bathtub can be an affordable luxury for homeowners. A beautiful new bathtub can be very affordable with prices starting under $1,000.

Would you like to receive a FREE COPY of Tub King's Ultimate Guide to Cast Iron/Porcelain Tubs, Walk-in Tubs & Safety Suite Showers, our new e-book? Fill in the form below and we will send it to you for free! It is also for sale and you can see/buy it on by clicking on this link.

Have a question? Feel free to contact me at the number or email listed at the end of this article and I will personally get back to you. It’s been my pleasure sharing this information with you.
Alan Knight is the owner of Tub King, Inc., and  in Jacksonville,  Florida
He has many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. In addition to providing superior products, Tub King has been honored with “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Awards” for four years running. If you would like to contact Alan Knight, call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231; or send an email to

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