A Roman glass Tear Vial, Roman Imperial, ca. 1st century CE


The "tear-drop" shape of this elegant little bottle, free blown from pale aqua glass, is distinctively Roman. Large numbers of vessels in this shape have been found in Roman tombs, leading early archaeologists to the romantic but erroneous proposal that these bottles contained the tears of Roman mourners. In fact, they were used as part of the Roman toilette and contained the viscous liquids like unguents and perfumes.

For related examples see: Susan H. Auth, (1976) "Ancient Glass at the Newark Museum from the Eugene Schaefer Collection", p. 211, #404-406 50.1679.

Dimensions: Height: 4 1/4 inches (10.8 cm)

Condition: The bottle is preserved intact and presents a surface of fine iridescence, it is in very good condition overall 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.

Type: Archive

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