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Roman Glass Globular Aryballos
Geneva | Vessels
 
Date:  1st Century AD2nd Century AD
Culture:  Roman
Category:  Vessels
Medium:  Glass
Dimension: H: 14 cm D: 13 cm
Price: $6,200.00
Provenance: English private collection, London; acquired in 1993.
Serial No: 851

This vessel, which was mould-blown in a colorless transparent glass, is outstanding for its formal perfection and for its weight (the wall is particularly thick). The horizontal lines were carved during the turning of the container.
The elegant and well-proportionate shape is halfway between the aryballos and the amphoriskos: the footless, globular body with a small flat base (which provides a good balance to the vessel), recalls the famous scented oil bottles originating in Corinth, while the cylindrical neck provided with the two thick, arched handles is rather typical of miniature amphorae.
The rounded lip is highlighted by a thick ring in relief that partially hides the neck; the handles, attached to the upper shoulder and under the lip were modeled from a thick mass of glass, which, depending on the lighting, turns into a beautiful ice blue color.
Small sized bottles of various shapes (more or less globular body, tall or low flared neck, ribbed or plain handles, etc.) and blown in different colors (aubergine, blue, yellow, transparent, green, etc.) were very popular from the 1st to the 4th century A.D.: they were part of the most frequently used toiletry tools. Their success certainly encouraged glassworkers to be highly inventive in order to create new versions, even more attractive to the public.
Towards the end of the Hellenistic period, glass definitely supplanted terracotta as a raw material for the manufacture of containers in all areas of daily life: this event, which occurred gradually, shall be regarded as a major technical revolution in antiquity, made easier, in early Roman times, by the invention and quick spread of the blowpipe, and by the conception of furnaces resisting to higher and higher temperatures.
With a versatility like no other known material in Roman times, abundant availability, lightness and ease of use, glass enabled the imitation of a wide range of other materials (especially precious metals), whether in the form, the design or the color. Furthermore, the ancients certainly knew that glass is a chemically neutral substance, what makes it particularly suitable for the storage of cosmetics or pharmaceutical products, as well as food and liquids.