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Small ribbed bowl

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: Roman
: 1st century A.D.
: Glass
: Height: 6.1 cm, diameter: 9.9 cm

Formerly Werner Hartmann Collection, Geneva, 1970s.


Complete and virtually intact. Minor chips on the rim and superficial wear. Small cracks and air bubbles in the glass.


This thick-walled bowl is remarkable both for its excellent state of preservation and for its very intense color, rarely attested for this type of vessels. It was molded, while the finish was obtained by polishing and/or grinding; three nets are engraved on the inside (two on the bottom and one near the lip). 

This vessel is semi-spherical in shape, with a deep body and a tall, smooth rim; it is decorated with fourteen ribs arranged vertically along the outer wall; their presence recalls the metallic origin of the shape, inspired by the gadroon vases made of precious metal. Spaced along the rim, the ribs join and converge towards the flat base, which provides the vessel with good balance.

Despite its rather small size, this bowl is outstanding for its artistic and technical qualities that make it a masterpiece: the shape is perfect and the deep, precisely cut ribs are arranged on the surface in a more regular and symmetrical way than on most related ribbed bowls.

Ribbed cups and bowls exist in many chromatic and typological variations, and were manufactured with different techniques, by printing a flat glass disk that was then rounded over a curved form or by pressing the required quantity of heated glass between a male mold and a female mold. The ribs would have also been formed by pinching the glass with a tool.

The first examples of ribbed bowls date back to the second quarter of the 1st century B.C.; from the middle of that century, the shape suffered a minor variation, with the adoption of a flatter or slightly convex bottom, which made the vessel more stable. Their production increased considerably from the late Hellenistic period on and continued during the 1st century of the Empire with a very elaborate typology and various dimensions. The most common colors were first orange-brown,  aubergine and, more rarely, cobalt blue; these were gradually replaced by a simple transparent glass with light blue, dark or pale green reflections around the mid-1st century A.D., when the taste for bright colors became old-fashioned.

These bowls were largely used as tableware across the Mediterranean world, from Italy to the more western and northern colonies of the Empire, from the Aegean to the Levant. This wide distribution suggests that they were produced in Italian and Syro-Palestinian workshops.


GOLDSTEIN S.M., Pre-Roman and Early Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, New York, 1979, pp. 154-155, no. 331.

HARDEN D.B., Glas der Caesaren, Milan, 1988, p. 52, no. 28.

On the production of ribbed bowls, see:

GROSE D.F., The Toledo Museum of Art, Early Ancient Glass, New York, 1989, pp. 245ff.

STERN E.M. – SCHLICK-NOLTE B., Early Glass of the Ancient World, 1000 B.C. A.D. 50, Ernesto Wolf Collection, Ostfildern, 1994,  pp. 72-79, nos. 84-85 and 89-96.



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