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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Ancient Glass : Roman Barrel-Shaped Glass Flask
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Roman Barrel-Shaped Glass Flask - GF.0027 (LSO)
Origin: Jerusalem
Circa: 100 AD to 300 AD
Dimensions: 8" (20.3cm) high x 5" (12.7cm) wide
Catalogue: V1
Collection: Classical Antiquities
Medium: Glass

Location: UAE
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This attractive glass vessel dates to the heyday of glass production in the Mediterranean. It is an unusual shape, a barrel-like, rounded flask with sharply angled base and shoulders, the apex giving rise to a graceful slope up to a double- rimmed, straight-lipped mouth. The shoulder and the base of the neck are joined by a twisted handle with relief working on the upper side. The ground is green, with a patina of age that bestows an attractive opalescence. The function of the piece is uncertain, but its size suggests that it is for a consumable – perhaps an alcoholic beverage – rather than makeup or other items associated with unguentaria.

Basic glass-working involved working around a clay core and the use of moulds, and was developed about 3000 BC. Glass was thus difficult and expensive to produce, and was exclusively an elite product. It was only with the invention of glass-blowing in the region of modern-day Syria – around the first century BC – that glass production became anything approximating to an industry. The decoration, production and uses of glass all proliferated as it spread, leading to further stylistic and technical diversity. It was particularly taken up by Roman craftsmen, who spread it across their empire with resultant changes and modifications. Regionalisation of glass manufacture became the norm, as Palestinian, Cypriot, Pontic and Egyptian glass-makers thrived in the early years of the first millennium AD. The Romans went on to be perhaps the greatest glassmakers of the ancient world, manufacturing such spectacular masterworks as the Portland Vase and caged chalice cups. There was a distinct tendency towards colourless glass that were often decorated with superficial and superimposed layers of differently-coloured and opaque glass. Byzantine and Islamic works, by comparison, were much more colourful as an integral method – the glass itself being brightly coloured and swirled with patterns.

This is an elegant and understated piece of ancient glass, and a worthy addition to any collection of the genre.

- (GF.0027 (LSO))


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