Ancient Roman Yellow Glass Aryballos


A Roman aryballos (oil bottle) blown from translucent yellow glass with applied handles and wheel cut lines to the body. The large globular body sits on a flat circular base, and tapers in at the shoulders to a thin, cylindrical neck with a flattened everted rim. The handles, drawn and tooled, curve gently from the mid-neck to the upper body, and are adorned with a central raised rib that runs vertically down the handle. The vessel is further decorated with incised horizontal bands around the body and neck. There is subtle iridescence across the surface of the glass.

Date: Circa 1st Century AD
Provenance: Ex GR Collection, London and Geneva, acquired 1960s-90s; Ex JL Collection
Condition: Good condition. Some earthly encrustation to surface.

In stock

Glass was often the preferred material for storing expensive oils, perfumes, and medicines because it was not porous. The small mouth allowed the user to carefully pour and control the amount of liquid dispensed. 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. These glass bottles are found frequently at Hellenistic and Roman sites, especially in cemeteries, and the liquids which filled them would have been gathered from all corners of the expansive Roman Empire. Different minerals were added to create a variety of colours; the yellow tint seen in this piece would have been created by adding antimony and lead.

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 all affect its preservation as well.

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

Weight 179.2 g
Dimensions L 13.0 x W 11.0 cm



Reference: For a similar item,The Metropolitan Museum, item 81.10.257

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