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A Roman Blue Glass Aryballos, Roman Imperial, 1st Century AD

This small vase, the condition of which is remarkable despite superficial wear, is known in modern archaeological literature as an aryballos, designed to contain cosmetic oils used by athletes for their personal hygiene after exercising at the palestra.  A very popular shape in the ancient Greek period (the first examples appear in the 7th century B.C.), the aryballos was carried suspended from a string: and while most of the preserved examples are of terracotta, they also exist of glass paste, metal and, of course, blown glass.  This example was blown from translucent blue-green glass, the body is globular with a small flat bottom and short narrow neck; the lip flat with thick collar rim. The two handles, were applied to the curved shoulder and sit snugly  beneath the flat rim.

Because of their even, simple form, aryballoi were among the earliest shapes largely produced in glass using the blowing method: their popularity can be measured by the number of excavated examples and especially by their wide distribution, practically touching the entire ancient Roman world from southern Mesopotamia to the Iberian peninsula.

For related examples see: Hayes J. W. Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in the Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto, 1975, cat. # 123; Kunina N. Ancient Glass in the Hermitage Collection. ARS Publishers, LTD, St. Petersburg, 1997, cat. #346-348; Matheson S. B. Ancient Glass in the Yale University Art Gallery. Yale University Art Gallery, 1980, cat. # 91; Lightfoot C. S. A Catalog of Glass Vessels in Afyon Museum. B.A.R., Oxford, 1989, plate 3 #6.

Dimensions: Height:  2 1/2 inches (6.5 cm)

Condition: The originally translucent glass had turned mostly opaque and there is scattered pale iridescence, overall in excellent condition with no chips, cracks or breaks.

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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