Roman Iridescent Glass Sprinkler Flask


A Roman sprinkler flask in light green glass, with a particularly attractive pearly crust and iridescence to areas of the surface. The body is mould-blown to resemble a stylised bunch of grapes or a pinecone. The flask features a flaring lip; a short, cylindrical neck with small internal hole; and stands on a flattened base.

Date: Circa 3rd century AD.
Provenance: Private Mayfair, London collection, SM.
Condition: Very fine, complete and intact


SKU: AS-3762 Category: Tags: ,

Flasks of this type were designed with a constriction on the inside of the neck. This permitted only a drop of liquid to pass through at a time, hence the term ‘sprinkler’ or ‘dropper’ flask.

Glass was often the preferred material for storing expensive oils, perfumes, and medicines because it was not porous. The small body and mouth allowed the user carefully to 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 small 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.

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.


Weight 32.7 g
Dimensions H 8.3 cm



Reference: For a variant, compare no. 280; Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in the Royal Ontario Museum; Hayes.

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