Antiquities > Ancient Glass

Ancient glass with gold leaf

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Joe Sermarini:
Some antiquity dealers will tag most any ancient glass as Roman, 1st to 3rd/4th century.  More often than not this is correct because that was when the most mass manufacturing occurred. But many items were made after the 3rd century A.D.

The earliest glass was Egyptian and Phoenician. Greece was not an early glass making center.  This glass is usually described as Egyptian or Hellenistic, almost never as "Greek."

The earliest blown glass, and your piece is blown glass, dates from sometime in the second half of first century B.C. Because this was the Roman era, even if it was made in Egypt or the Levante or Greece, it would be typically be called Roman, not Greek. In the early empire most glass was still made in Egypt, the Levante, or Italy. Later glass was also made in Gaul, but still I don't know of any glass coming from Greece in the late empire. Complete Roman gold ornamented glass vessels are extremely rare.

This is more a guess than a researched opinion, but I believe it is Islamic and probably 7th - 13th century.  The shape and the ornamentation both seem Islamic to me. Gold leaf is much more common on Islamic glass than Roman.  But again, this is more a guess.  For me, it might take a lot of research to reach a firmer opinion.

Paul C2:
Thanks Joe, I really appreciate your reply. I will have to try and find some evidence one way or the other. If it's medieval Islamic, that would be fine - although I think I would have overpaid for it.

I am with Joe.  Shape and decoration indicate Islamic, and are paralleled on Islamic metalwork.   I would narrow it down to 10-13th century and try to research Egyptian, then maybe Syrian, glass work.


Paul C2:
Thanks Shawn, I will do some research. Unfortunately I think this purchase might have been in one of this dealer's auctions, rather than a standard purchase, so I may have no recourse anyway. But it's still a fairly interesting and appealing piece, even if I have paid a ridiculous amount for it.

I saw a very similar one, though with islamic lettering in gold, yesterday in the Brussels Art & History Museum.  It was labelled Egyptian 12-13th century.



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