Roman Blue Cast Cotton Reel Glass Unguentarium

£ 125.00

A fine small ancient Roman unguentarium cast from translucent blue glass in the shape of a cotton reel. The vessel features a slightly domed body which sits upon a flat base. The shoulders taper in to a cylindrical neck leading to an everted, folded rim. Beautiful iridescence covers part of the body.

Please check the measurements provided.

Date: Circa 2nd-3rd century AD
Provenance: Acquired 1980-2015. Ex Abelita family collection.
Condition: Fine condition. Beautiful iridescence and earthly encrustations along with some minor abrasions to the surface. Hairline cracks to the bottom.


SKU: CY-188 Category: Tags: ,

The shape of this unguentarium is a characteristic of Roman Egypt: the thick walls creating a durable container with a very small capacity.

Unguentaria were amongst the most common objects of Roman blown glass, produced in large numbers, they were items of every day use for keeping expensive unguents and cosmetic oils. By the 1st century AD, the technique of glass-blowing had revolutionised the art of glass-making, allowing for the production of small medicine, incense, and perfume containers in new forms. The small body and mouth allowed the user carefully to pour and control the amount of liquid dispensed, and glass was the material of choice for storing the oils because it was not porous. These small glass (or ceramic) bottles are found frequently at Hellenistic and Roman sites, especially in cemeteries, and the perfumes which filled them would have been gathered from all corners of the expansive Roman Empire.

The iridescence on ancient Roman glass was unintentional, and was caused by weathering on its surface. The extent to which a glass object weathers depends mainly on the burial conditions; however, the humidity, heat, and type of soil in which the glass was buried also all affect its preservation.

To find out more about Roman glass please see our relevant blog post: Collecting Roman Glass.

Weight 20.4 g
Dimensions W 2.8 x H 4.1 cm



Reference: For a similar item, see The Metropolitan Museum, New York, item 74.51.5773

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