Roman Transparent blue glass Cup
Culture: Roman, Ro-Imperial
Period: 1st Century A.D.
Dimensions: H: 7 cm
Acquired on the Swiss Art Market in 1993.
This mold-pressed cup of beautiful deep blue glass is in excellent condition.
This mold-pressed cup of beautiful deep blue glass is in excellent condition. This cup is of a very simple form: the sides are slightly convex, tapering towards the bottom of the vessel; there is no base. The form originated in the first century A.D., from when this vessel dates, but most examples come from the second century or later. This simple form may be the basis for that of indented cups, a shape that was popular from the 1st to 4th centuries. This mold-pressed cup was crafted in a casting process in which ground, broken or molten glass was heated in a mold until it fused, and was subsequently cooled to allow for removal from the cast. After removal from the mold, the surface was wheel-or fire-polished.
Our cup’s decoration, typical of mold-pressed vessels, is comprised of wheel-cut lines and bands. One of these lines differentiates the rim from the body of the cup. Below, a band of wheel-cut decoration adorns the cup’s widest diameter. These lines and bands were created after the glass had cooled, with a metal wheel and an abrasive powder, such as emery. Glass was a popular material for housewares in Rome. Used both for plain and luxury wares and in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, glass was known for its versatility. In his Natural Histories, Pliny noted that there is no other material nowadays that is more pliable (Plin. Natural History 36.195). Our cup was most likely a vessel for wine, used by its owners for cena (dinner).
This shape is well known among first century glass beakers. A cup dating from the 1st century A.D. in Corning displays a similar shape (a convex profile which tapers on the lower part of the vessel), but differs in that it is decorated with an inscription of its maker’s name. In Newark, there is another example which is close to our cup in decoration (wheel-cut lines and bands) as well as shape. However, its somewhat squat profile lacks the elegance of our beaker. A later example from the 3rd or 4th century, at Yale, shows that this shape persisted in Roman glassware throughout the Imperial period.
MATHESON S. B. Ancient Glass in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1980.
PLINY, Natural History, 36.195.
WHITEHOUSE D., Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, Volume One, Cornell, 1997.
For the Corning cup:
Glass from the Ancient World, Corning, 1957, p. 59, no. 70.
For the Newark cup:
AUTH S.H., Ancient Glass at the Newark Museum, Newark, 1976, p. 202, no. 348.
For the Yale cup:
MATHESON S.B. Ancient Glass in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1980, p.92, no. 249.