The amphoriskos is a class of small vessels which were widespread in the world of ancient glassware (approximately between the 6th and the 2nd century B.C.): there are two types that are morphologically and chronologically well differentiated. This piece belongs to the second group, the most recent, which has replaced the classical shape from the late 3rd and 2nd century. In all probability, they were designed to store and transport small quantities of valuable substances such as cosmetic products; other examples could serve as offerings or as elements of funeral furniture; in view of their miniature size, they could also be used as toys for children.
This core-formed example is made of a dark blue glass and has partially retained its shiny surface. The neck is long and cylindrical, the belly is ovoid and elongated, and the bottom is equipped with a pointed, twisted mass of glass; the vertical handles are large in dimension, and are attached to the shoulder and just below the lip. Slightly incised vertical lines furrow the body.
The decoration is composed of a single yellow thread which, beginning under the lip, winds spirally around the neck, forms a band of several zigzags and finally draws other lines at the bottom of the amphoriskos.
The shape of this Hellenistic type closely recalls that of the wine amphorae, of which it could be a miniature imitation.
The core-forming technique of glass manufacture, which is very old, was already known in Mesopotamia and Egypt in the early 2nd millennium B.C. In the Greek world, this process has first been applied by Rhodian workshops (6th century B.C.), and later in Italy and Alexandria; it was gradually abandoned in the late Hellenistic period, due to the concurrence of blown glass. The general shape of the container was obtained by modeling, first, roughly purified clay (the core): this core was attached to a rod and dipped into molten glass, while the form was given by the rolling and/or stretching of the mass on a flat slab; the malleability of the glass was maintained through a constant re-heating of the mass. The distinctive decoration of these containers was produced by incorporating, into the surface, different colored glass threads that could be dragged with a metal pin into a zigzag or feather pattern. The clay core was removed mechanically after the cooling of the vessel.
Our piece is among the finest example of this class of perfume vases: as with many other shapes of miniature vases, glass examples are considered a luxury version of the great mass production, which was simply made of terracotta.
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