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A fine pair of Roman Candlestick Unguentarium, ca 1st century AD

Free blown and tooled, this fine pair of unguentarium are each made of transparent pale blue-green glass, their low conical bodies with slightly concave base and pontil mark, the long cylindrical necks with splayed disk rim. Both feature a line of extraordinary silver green iridescence to one side.

For related example see: John W. Hayes, "Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in the Royal Ontario Museum" (Toronto, ROM 1975), figures 258 and 259 (pg. 204).

Fragile, translucent and nearly weightless, ancient Roman glass is wondrously enduring.  A remarkable array of vessels and dishes in a rainbow of sumptuous tones can still be found.  They are the unlikely survivors of floods, volcanic eruptions and wars - not to mention good old-fashioned human clumsiness!!

Ancient glass combines mystery and charm and even the more familiar ware has enormous visual appeal.  While the pieces are almost always small, design varies enormously.  Colors range from a pale blue-green for natural glass or rich amber to a deep cobalt blue and even violet, which appears nearly black unless lit.  For variation, artisans mixed batches of different colored glass to achieve a marbleized effect of slender, sinewy lines of contrasting colors. 

No less alluring and intriguing than the glass’ patterns and forms are its tactile qualities.  The patina, or iridescence is a thin layer of corrosion that develops on glass after it has been buried for centuries.  Unlike the sandy crust that is found on pottery and mars its appearance, iridescence is a large part of the appeal of ancient glass.  It’s a thin, luminous, nearly shimmering veil that takes on the color of the glass itself and has a silvery reflective quality, such as the examples shown here.   It fascinated Louis Comfort Tiffany who tried to duplicate the finish thousands of years later.   Glass is remarkable for its physical properties - light, translucence, color.  What makes it even more remarkable is that it has survived intact for thousands of years - it would be like finding a complete Tiffany vase two thousand years from now....

Condition: Age appropriate accumulation, both with exceptional irridescence to one side, both vessels are intact and in fine condition overall.

Dimensions: height, 6.7 inches (17 centimeters) ; 7 inches (18 centimeters)

Provenance:   Private NY collection.

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