Back to results

Glass Pyxis

Download PDF
: Greek
: late 4th century B.C.
: Opaque glass
: H: 3.8 cm - D lid: 7.0 cm - D body: 6.3 cm Among

Ex- B.R. Wagner collection, Geneva, collected in the late 1960’s-1970.


The pyxis is smaller in size. The extraordinary crispness and thinness of details along with the smoothness of the polished surface help to compare the piece with a luxurious ivory prototype.


Among the surviving ancient glass pyxides (jewelry or cosmetic boxes), this piece made of opaque green-olive glass is one of the rarest: its size, quality and perfect preservation do not find an immediate parallel. The shape strikes the viewer with the bold design and a highly precise execution. Several pyxides constitute a special class of objects whose chronology spans the entire period of Greek and Roman antiquity. They were made in a variety of materials: gold and silver, ivory, wood, ceramic, stone, and glass; their forms and size also significantly vary. There is a group of glass and marble pyxides which belongs to the Late Classical and Hellenistic period; they are close in spool-like shape: the circular body covered with the domed lid has straight walls, the body is relatively low toward the diameter of the piece. Although the tools and the technique could be different for each material, there is the unifying motif: the alternating deep grooves and ridges which encircle the base and the lid.

Scholars believe that such a characteristic treatment of both marble and glass objects is not necessarily due to the imitation of the first in the pieces of less expensive glass (glass was not a cheap product before the Roman period); it derives from the design and execution of the most exclusive ivory pyxides as well as the most available wooden ones both turned on a lathe and thus exposing perfectly modeled concentric grooves and ridges. As for the glass pyxides, they were cast in a mold, polished and engraved.

The present piece is somewhat apart from the group dated to the 3rd – 1st century B.C. Its lid is less domed and does not have a knob, it is of exactly the same diameter as the outsplayed, slightly inward-sloping rim to which it makes an exact fit. The pyxis is smaller in size (the average diameter of the lid in the group is 10-12 cm). This probably places the piece in an earlier date of production. The extraordinary crispness and thinness of details along with the smoothness of the polished surface help to compare the piece with a luxurious ivory prototype.


GAUNT J., The Classical Marble Pyxis and Dexilla’s Dedication in Koehl R., ed., Amilla, The Quest for Excellence: Studies Presented to Guenter Kopcke in Celebration of His 75th Birthday, Philadelphia, 2013, pp. 381-398.

Glass of the Ancient World: The Ray Winfield Smith Collection, Corning, 1957, pp. 99-101, nos. 171-172.

GOLDSTEIN S. M., Pre-Roman and Early Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, 1979, pp. 133-134, no. 276.

RIETH A., Antike Holzgefässe, in Archäologischer Anzeiger 1/2, 1955, col. 1-26.

STERN E. M., SHLICK-NOLTE B., Early Glass of the Ancient World, 1600 B.C. – A.D. 50: Ernesto Wolf Collection, Ostfildern, New York, 1994, pp. 282-283, no. 78.

VAULINA M., W?SOWICZ A., Bois grecs et romains de l’Ermitage, Wroc?aw, 1974, pp. 145-150.

WEINBERG G. D., Glass Manufacture in Ancient Crete in Journal of Glass Studies 1, 1959, pp. 10-21.

Related works of art

Roman Amber Ribbed Glass Bowl Glass Pyxis Hellenistic Glass Shell Cycladic Marble Kandila Roman Rock Crystal Skyphos Roman Chalcedony Kantharos Greek Hellenistic Core-formed Glass Oinochoe Roman Rock Crystal Jar