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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Antiquities| ▸ |Antiquities by Material| ▸ |Glass Antiquities||View Options:  |  |  |   

Ancient Glass

Ancient glass making began in Egypt and the Mesopotamian region around 1500 B.C. Glass beads and inlays were even used on King Tutankhamen's mask. The earliest vessels were produced by forming melted glass on a clay core in the shape of the desired vessel. Hot threads of contrasting color were wrapped around the vessel, pressed, and combed to create a wavy pattern. The clay core was removed after cooling. The Augustan age of the Roman empire and invention of the blowpipe in Sidonian Phoenicia marked a turning point in glass production. Output could be increased a thousandfold with the introduction of new, exciting shapes. This technique quickly spread to Italy, and then throughout the empire. Roman glass was so popular that most Romans owned glass objects, and much has survived and is available today at reasonable prices.

Roman, Eastern Mediterranean, Glass Double |Balsamarium (Cosmetic Tube), 4th Century A.D.

|Glass| |Antiquities|, |Roman,| |Eastern| |Mediterranean,| |Glass| |Double| ||Balsamarium| |(Cosmetic| |Tube),| |4th| |Century| |A.D.|
This type was used to store eye makeup. One tube would have held kohl, a black paste made with powdered galena. The other tube would have held another color, perhaps made with an ochre clay (for red or brown) or powdered malachite (for green or blue).
AG20799. cf. Yale Gallery 323, Oppenländer 680a, ROM Glass 458, Corning II 749, Choice, complete and intact, weathering and iridescence, double balsamarium, free-blown thick heavy pale translucent blue-green glass, 20.0 cm (8") tall, two tubes joined side-by-side and sharing a thick globular bottom, applied top "basket" handle attached to applied loop on each side; from the Robert H. Cornell collection, former dealer in Eastern antiquities for 40 years; $990.00 (€910.80)
 


Roman, Syro-Palestinian, Sprinkler Flask, 3rd - 4th Century A.D.

|Glass| |Antiquities|, |Roman,| |Syro-Palestinian,| |Sprinkler| |Flask,| |3rd| |-| |4th| |Century| |A.D.|
Dropper bottles, such as this one, were filled with scented oil or perfume. The constriction in the neck made it easy to dispense the expensive contents one drop at a time. The swirled design was created by blowing the body into a ribbed mold, removing the glass from the mold, then blowing it again while twisting the bubble. The most unusual feature on this flask is the recessed neck, pushed into the body, a very rare feature.
AG20821. cf. Corning II 621, ROM Glass 282, Newark Museum 152, Wolf Collection 154, Carnegie Museum 213, Superb, complete and intact, attractive iridescence, globular body sprinkler flask, transparent blue glass, 11.3 cm (4 3/8") tall, 4.4 cm (1 3/4") widest diameter, beautifully made, mold-blown swirled ribs, recessed cylindrical neck, everted funnel mouth, rolled and folded in rim, kicked bottom, no pontil mark; from a Florida dealer; $900.00 (€828.00)
 


Roman, Syro-Palestinian (|Samaria?), Snake-Thread Flask, Late 2nd - Early 4th Century A.D.

|Glass| |Antiquities|, |Roman,| |Syro-Palestinian| |(|Samaria?),| |Snake-Thread| |Flask,| |Late| |2nd| |-| |Early| |4th| |Century| |A.D.|
Snake-thread ornamentation originated in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire in the second half of the second century and its popularity peaked in the first half of the third century. Snake-thread decoration was revived in the second half of the fourth century in the east and in the west near Cologne in modern Germany. Serpentine form trails may vary in thickness, may be the same color as the vessel (usually colorless) or brightly colored (common in the West). Ontario Museum 309, with similar subtle snake-thread ornamentation, is attributed to Samaria, 3rd to early 4th century A.D.

A disadvantage of antiquity photographs is that they usually fail to adequately indicate size. This vessel, nearly 5" tall, is larger than most similar vessels of the period.
AG63814. cf. Ontario Museum 309 (for similar ornamentation), Superb, complete and intact, a well made beautiful flask, some weathering, some iridescence, snake thread flask, 12.4 mm (4 7/8") high, funnel mouth with rolled rim, cylindrical neck, bulbous body, snake-thread ornamentation on the body, flat bottom; from a Florida dealer; $800.00 (€736.00)
 


Roman-Byzantine, Syro-Palestinian, Glass Dropper Flask, c. Late 1st - Early 5th Century A.D.

|Glass| |Antiquities|, |Roman-Byzantine,| |Syro-Palestinian,| |Glass| |Dropper| |Flask,| |c.| |Late| |1st| |-| |Early| |5th| |Century| |A.D.|
Thick enamel-like weathering, as seen on this piece, is common on glass found in the Levant and this piece is certainly from the Levante. This flask is, however, a bit of a mystery. There is nothing very similar in the large library of ancient and medieval glass references held by Forum. It resembles an aryballos, but lacks the handles which define that type. It probably was used like an aryballos, to store and dispense scented oil which was rubbed on the skin and then scraped off to clean the body. The date is uncertain. Weathering obscures the original color, making another mystery, but the only other a similar flasks we know are described as opaque black glass.
AG20822. Isings -, et al. -; apparently unpublished but two similar pieces are known from the market (priced $2,500 - $3,000!), Choice, complete and intact, thick tan and brown enamel-like weathering, dropper flask, free-blown, amber(?) glass, 12.0 cm (4 3/4") tall, 8.5 cm maximum diameter, piriform body, very short narrow neck, broad flat folded in rim, round bottom with large pontil mark, not designed to stand on its own, attractive clear plexiglass three prong stand included; from the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years; very rare form; $600.00 (€552.00)
 


Roman, Eastern Mediterranean, Glass Funnel Mouth Flask, c. 4th - 5th Century A.D.

|Glass| |Antiquities|, |Roman,| |Eastern| |Mediterranean,| |Glass| |Funnel| |Mouth| |Flask,| |c.| |4th| |-| |5th| |Century| |A.D.|
This type, with a funnel mouth, usually with an unworked or simple fire rounded rim, and without a base is found from Gaul to the Eastern Mediterranean, most often in the remains of 4th to 5th century houses. Some specimens have a rolled or folded rim. Specimens with a constriction at the base of the neck or a dropper diaphragm within the neck are less common but described by Isings. Some examples are decorated with pinches, ribs, wheel cuts, and coils, as found on other contemporary glass vessels. Some late specimens have bell shaped or square bodies.
AG21127. cf. Isings 104b, Corning II 623, Lightfoot NMS 337, Corning I 280, Superb, complete, short crack from mouth rim, areas of weathering and iridescence, glass funnel mouth flask, very pale green semi-transparent glass, 12.7 cm (5") high, 9.0 cm (3 1/2") maximum diameter, fire rounded rim, long funnel mouth, short concave neck, bulbous body with mold blown swirled ribs, convex bottom with no pontil mark; from the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years; $600.00 (€552.00)
 


Roman, Eastern Mediterranean, c. Late 2nd - 4th Century A.D.

|Glass| |Antiquities|, |Roman,| |Eastern| |Mediterranean,| |c.| |Late| |2nd| |-| |4th| |Century| |A.D.|
We did not find another example of this type. The two referenced types are not very similar.
AG21075. cf. ROM Glass 540, Isings 88b, Choice, complete, intact, spots of brown weathering, globular sprinkler jug, translucent pale yellow-green glass, 9.6 cm (3 3/4") tall, 6.8 cm (2 5/8") maximum diameter, small funnel mouth, rolled and folded in rim, applied trail handle attached at the rim and at the shoulder, ovoid/bell shaped body, a row of decorative vertical indentations around the shoulder, kicked bottom with pontil mark, from the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years; very rare; $450.00 (€414.00)
 


Roman, Syro-Palestinian, Glass Sprinkler Jug, c. 3rd Century A.D.

|Glass| |Antiquities|, |Roman,| |Syro-Palestinian,| |Glass| |Sprinkler| |Jug,| |c.| |3rd| |Century| |A.D.|
This opaque buff-yellow-brown enamel-like weathering is common on glass vessels found in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
AG63811. cf. Lightfoot NMS 178, Ontario Museum 416, Isings -, Complete, tiny chip in handle (visible in photo), possibly a small rim repair or just flaked weathering, thick yellowish brown enamel-like weathering, glass sprinkler jug, 10.5 mm (4 1/8"), free-blow, yellow-green glass, conical piriform body, tubular neck, slight funnel mouth, washer-like sprinkler diaphragm constriction at the base of neck, handle attached below rim and below neck, kicked bottom with pontil mark; from a Florida dealer; $320.00 (€294.40)
 


Roman, Syro-Palestinian, Glass Fusiform Unguentarium with Iridescence, c. 3rd - 5th Century A.D.

|Glass| |Antiquities|, |Roman,| |Syro-Palestinian,| |Glass| |Fusiform| |Unguentarium| |with| |Iridescence,| |c.| |3rd| |-| |5th| |Century| |A.D.|
Hayes' Ontario Museum catalog references many similar specimens, noting some are from Beirut. Our example is finer than most examples of similar form, many of which appear to be carelessly made. Hayes' dates the type 5th century or later. Perhaps the finer form indicates ours is earlier.
AG63806. cf. Ontario Museum 461, Choice. complete and intact, much iridescence, fusiform unguentarium, 16.5 cm, spindle-shaped long tubular body, upper half is a neck narrowing slightly to folded and flattened rim, small shoulder at center, lower half is a narrow tubular body narrowing to a rounded point, stand not included; from a Florida dealer; $290.00 (€266.80)
 


Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, Glass Floral Inlay Fragment, 3rd - 1st Century B.C.

|Egyptian| |Antiquities|, |Ptolemaic| |Kingdom| |of| |Egypt,| |Glass| |Floral| |Inlay| |Fragment,| |3rd| |-| |1st| |Century| |B.C.|
This small piece of glass may not seem like much but larger pieces from the master craftsmen of this workshop are very rare. Even a small fragment like this one is museum quality and suitable for an important collection.
AA32380. cf. Lightfoot NMS 492 - 493, Choice fragment, floral inlay glass fragment, 1.9 cm (3/4"), partial flower with three white pedals and center of yellow and clear dots, black background; from the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years; ex Robert Haas collection; rare; $240.00 (€220.80)
 


Roman, Eastern Mediterranean, Twisted Glass Rod, 1st - 2nd Century A.D.

|Glass| |Antiquities|, |Roman,| |Eastern| |Mediterranean,| |Twisted| |Glass| |Rod,| |1st| |-| |2nd| |Century| |A.D.|
Isings notes that glass rods are found "everywhere where the Romans were." Most are twisted but some are plain. Most often they have simple flattened ends but pointed ends, and ends with loops or discs, such as on this specimen are published. The purpose of these rods remains a mystery, but they are sometimes called stirring rods or dipping rods, suggesting a couple possibilities.
AG21191. cf. ROM Glass 656b, Lightfoot NMS 458, Kofler-Truniger 201, Bomford 83, Oppenländer 619, Newark Museum 521, Isings 79, Complete, reconstructed from at least three fragments, twisted glass rod, light blue-green semi-transparent glass, bent over to form a loop at one end, the other end pressed flat to form a disk; from the collection of Alex G. Malloy, former dealer in antiquities for 40 years; $240.00 (€220.80)
 




  



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REFERENCES|

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Christie's Sale. Wolkenburg Collection. 9 Jul 1991.
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Catalog current as of Saturday, January 16, 2021.
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