Ancient Roman Yellow Glass Flask with Applied Handle


A very fine ancient Roman flask mould blown from translucent yellow glass. The globular body sits upon a circular flat base and tapers in at the shoulders to a thin, cylindrical neck with an everted rim. A single applied handle has been attached from the rim to the shoulder. The body of the jar is decorated with a horizontal band of a continuous Vitruvian wave. Above and below, the main register is framed by two horizontal lines and decorative ridges radiating from the neck and the base of the jar. The delicate handle tapers inward in the middle and curves gently from the rim to the upper body. The majority of the surface of the vessel displays traces of iridescence making the appearance of the item even more visually interesting. The aryballlos comes with a modern stand.

Date: Circa 1st Century AD
Provenance: Ex S.M. collection, London, 1948 – 2000. Then, private collection belonging to the private J.L collection, Surrey.
Condition: Excellent condition. Beautiful iridescence visible to the surface along with earthly encrustation.


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.

Trail decoration is an embellishment technique which was a popular feature of Roman glass artefacts, and was composed of a strand of glass applied to a vessel or object. Narrow trails of coloured glass were applied in zig-zag or festoon patterns to vessels; trails of varying thickness were frequently added as rims, handles, or base rings. Trails were also used as surface decoration, usually in a spiralling pattern around the vessel which was either raised or made from a different colour of glass.

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: Ancient Roman Glass and Collecting Roman Glass.

Weight 16.76 g
Dimensions W 4.4 x H 6 cm




Reference: For a similar item, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, item 17.194.224

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