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Roman Glass Bottle with White Trailing
New York | Vessels
Date:  1st Century AD
Culture:  Roman
Category:  Vessels
Medium:  Glass
Dimension: H: 10.2 cm
Provenance: Ex- European private collection, 1992
Serial No: 8673

The vessel is in a good state of preservation. Glass is a fragile material, easily breakable and also affected by exterior conditions, so it is no surprise that many ancient objects show signs of weathering or damage. Here too, the surface has areas covered by brownish weathering, it is mostly on the exterior and interior side of the rim. The rim has an ancient crack, which can be determined by observing that the crack on the interior side has the same weathering. Otherwise the bottle is intact, showing its original colors and transparency. The main color is a deep cobalt blue which is remarkable for its intensity and richness of shading: it is almost navy blue in the thicker parts of the vessel (neck, rim); becoming pale blue when the light passes through the thinner parts (wall in the middle and lower section of the body). The additional color used for trailing is opaque white. Fourteen trails were added to the body of the vessel. The white thread was drawn from a point of application on the bottom and trailed around the body and stops in the middle of the neck with the occasional drop.
As the procedure started with the piece of glass at a high temperature, and remained so during the beginning of inflation, the white was dissolved in the blue making the surface universally flat in the lower part and the bottom of the vessel. As the temperature gradually dropped the white application became as a relief-like thread over the blue surface. Not perceived immediately on viewing, handling and rotating the vessel helps to reveal the particularities of the technique. The white drop left on the surface serves as a reminder that this glasswork is uniquely handmade.
Glass making technique in antiquity originated in the second millennium B. C. in Egypt and Mesopotamia and progressed from core-molding to mold-pressing and glass-cutting, subsequently to free-blowing and mold-blowing. Transparency is a natural property of glass as a medium, and it was especially appreciated in the items of free blown glass. Blowing makes each piece individual although even in antiquity craftsmen made series of similar products (sets of toilet bottles or drinking cups). As it is a hand-made process, glass blowing is dependent on the skills of the individual artisan. His intention would be to create a perfect object with suitable decoration but the result would often be different. The making process required simultaneous procedures: spinning the tube with a gob of molten glass and inflating it until a desirable shape was obtained. The blue bottle demonstrates that it has an ideal semi-spherical lower portion of the body with flattened bottom and slightly asymmetric cone-like upper portion; the rim is not perfectly round. However, this was not considered as a serious imperfection (as is the same with the occasional white drop which seems to embellish the surface), and the user might even find that the imperfect shape of the rim serves better for dosing the liquid.
The bottle belongs to the category of relatively small vessels that served as containers for perfumed oils or pharmaceutical balsams - in Latin unguentaria (sing. unguentarium). As an object of everyday use, its beauty is achieved by the contrasting effect of the translucent blue and opaque white colors. Both the visual and tactile senses are combined in the study of this object to create a unique experience.