A Roman Glass Ribbed Shallow Bowl, Roman Imperial, 1st Century BCE - 1st Century CE


This fine, translucent bowl is aquamarine in color and comprises medium thick glass of very good quality.  Semi-spherical in shape with a straight smooth rim, the shallow body is decorated with forty-eight ribs evenly spaced vertically down the outer wall to join a flat but slightly concave base (decorated with two concentric rings) providing the vessel with good balance.   Ribbed cups and bowls exist in many chromatic and typological variations, and were manufactured with different techniques, and the mold seams found only on the rim attest to this example being made by blowing molten glass into a multipart vertically grooved mold with two vertical sections that probably included no more than the ribbed area.

The first examples of ribbed bowls date back to the second quarter of the 1st century BC; from the middle of that century, the shape developed a minor variation with the adoption of a flatter or slightly convex bottom, which made the vessel more stable. Their production increased considerably from the late Hellenistic period on and continued during the 1st century of the Empire with a very elaborate typology and various dimensions. The most common colors were first orange-brown, aubergine and, more rarely, cobalt blue; these were gradually replaced by a simple transparent glass with light blue, dark or pale green reflections around the mid-1st century AD, when the taste for bright colors became old-fashioned. These bowls were largely used as tableware across the Mediterranean world, from Italy to the more western and northern colonies of the Empire, from the Aegean to the Levant. This widespread distribution suggests that they were produced in Italian and Syro-Palestinian workshops.

For related example see:  John W. Hayes, (1975) Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, ROM, p.19, 190, cat. #46-47.  Susan H. Auth (1976)  "Ancient Glass at the Newark Museum from the Eugene Schaefer collection" p. 194, #299-303.  Grose D.F., (1989) The Toledo Museum of Art, Early Ancient Glass, (New York), nos 14.  Stern E.M. - Schlick-Nolte B., (1994) Early Glass of the Ancient World, 1000 B.C. A.D. 50, Ernesto Wolf Collection, Ostfildern, pp. 72-79, nos. 84-85 and 89-96. and Goldstein S.M., (1979) Pre-Roman and Early Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, New York, pp. 154-155, no. 331.

Dimensions: Diameter: 5 3/8 in. (13.7 cm) 

Condition: The bowl is intact and despite some superficial roughness to the rim and body, the rich aqua color of the glass is still striking and in remarkable state of preservation for its age. There is faint, scattered iridescence and light mineral accumulation to both the interior and exterior.  It is in very good condition overall. 

Provenance:   The William R. Crawford collection of Ancient Glass and Antiquities, acquired from the European trade in the 1950's and then by descent.  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, Deputy Chief of Mission in Cyprus, US Ambassador to Yemen, then Cyprus and 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.  Exhibited:  Workhouse Art Center, Virginia, Glass National 2016, October 2016- January 2017.

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