Shallow ribbed bowl of aubergine and white mosaic glass
Period: Late 1st century B.C. - 1st century A.D.
Material: Aubergine and white mosaic glass
Dimensions: Height: 6.7 cm, length; 23.5 cm
Ex-German private collection, acquired in the late 1980’s. Published : Phoenix Ancient Art, “Crystal”, cat. exhibit Paris, Sept.2010, pp.58-61, No. 10.
Repaired from several large fragments
Mosaic glass vessels possessing such bold, striking designs, and in such a good state of preservation, are quite rare. In antiquity such vessels were highly desirable objects and were included among the household goods of the wealthiest individuals. While this type of mosaic ribbed glass bowl was known in Italy and the western Roman provinces, where western style bowls are attributed to the Romano-Italian industry of the Augustan and Tiberian periods, their distribution extends to Egypt and to other areas of the Eastern Mediterranean.
An exquisite example of the mosaic glass technique, this aubergine colored bowl is decorated with a multitude of white volutes that, seen from above, form spiral designs that are arranged in circles from the rim to the bottom of the bowl. The underside of the bowl is slightly concave, the result of the glassmaker’s use of a pontil, an iron rod for handling hot glass during the modeling process. The exterior is decorated with twenty-nine ribs or fl utings, evenly spaced and radiating out from the bottom of the bowl toward the rim. Such fl uted forms were popular among the repertoire of shapes produced by glassmakers during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Complete and in an excellent state of preservation, the bowl’s extraordinary dimensions surpass the average size of these unusual glass vessels.
The production of mosaic glass is a complex and painstaking operation requiring tremendous skill and remarkable experience on the part of the glassmaker. The glassmaker must fi rst produce the polychrome glass rods or canes that will be cut into small discs. Their chromatic composition determines the color design of the vessel: the combination of two colors, white and aubergine, merged into a single glass cane would provide a decorative effect like that of this bowl. Glass discs cut from the cane are heated and placed next to each other in a stone or ceramic mold having the form of the bowl. This procedure is combined with the technique of pressing the glass into the mold, hence the term moldpressed, followed by tooling and polishing to obtain a fi nely fi nished, uniform surface.
Beretta, M., and Di Pasquale, G., Vitrum: Il vetro fra arte e scienza nel mondo romano, Florence, 2004, p. 207, n. 1.22, for a comparable, but fragmentary bowl from Pompeii.
Goldstein, S. M., Pre-roman and Early Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, New York, 1979, pp. 188-191, n. 501- 512, for several parallels to this bowl, particularly the shallow ribbed bowl, n. 501, from the Western Roman Empire.
Grose, D. F., Early Ancient Glass, New York, 1989, pp. 241-250, for mosaic glass bowls, particularly fi g. 123, a shallow ribbed bowl, Yale University Art Gallery, 1955.6.238.
Kunina, N., Ancient Glass in the Hermitage Collection, St. Petersburg, 1997 pp. 268, n. 93. Oliver, A., Millefi ori Glass in Antiquity, in Journal of Glass Studies no. 10, 1968, pp. 48-70.
Scattoza-Höricht, L., I vetri romani di Ercolano, Rome, 1986