A Roman Glass Bottle, Roman Imperial, 1st century AD

This simple bottle is a wonderful example of Roman glass. The glass itself is of a sea green hue, and is partially covered with iridescence and encrustation. The body of the glass is globular; the neck is tall, straight and slender, with a thickened out-turned rim. This bottle was formed by free-blowing, a process by which molten glass is inflated and then fashioned into a vessel by the artisan without the aid of mold.

Thanks to the simplicity of its structure, vessels of this type are considered to be among the very first forms the glass makers learned to blow: for, the introduction of the glass blowing technique was an important and progressive technological revolution which took place about the mid-1st century BC in the Syro-Palestinian region from where it spread rapidly all around the Mediterranean.

Background: Toward the end of the Hellenistic period glass has seriously challenged clay as the first material for the execution of vessels for everyday use. This change, which developed gradually, should be considered as an important technical revolution of Antiquity. The invention of free blowing technique attributed to the workshops of Syro-Palestinian littoral and the further spread of the use of the blowing pipe made a definite impact on the success of glass at the beginning of the Roman era. Glass, a versatile material like no other known in the Roman period, available in abundance, light and easy to work with, allowed for the imitation a wide range of other materials (in particular, the precious metals), shapes and colors. The ancients certainly knew that glass is a chemically neutral substance what made it particularly apt for the storage of food supplies as well as cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.

Dimensions:Height: 4 inches (10 cm)

Condition:There is a hole in the base, and there are cracks in the glass on the opposite side. The bottom is chipped. The interior with mineral accretions and there is slight iridescence.

Provenance:The William R. Crawford collection of Ancient Glass and Antiquities, acquired from the European trade in the 1950's and then by descent. William R. Crawford, a retired American career diplomat and expert on the Middle East and Cyprus, was Director of Arab-Israeli Affairs at the State Department between 1959-1964, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Cyprus thereafter. In the 1970's, he was ambassador to Yemen and then to Cyprus and later became principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian affairs. He donated part of his collection to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts prior to his death in 2002.

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