Double unguentarium

c. 200 CE
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General Description

This vase, a double unguentarium, was very popular in the east Mediterranean, especially in the glass centers of Syro-Palestine. The delicate double form is crafted by folding a glass tube in half, bonding the two equal parts, and attaching a pair of angular handles from the lips. A veneer of glass was applied over the green glass shape, and snake-thread decoration spirals around each half of the vase. It would have been a woman's vessel to hold eye make-up for painting the eyelids and eyebrows, with a partition in the middle so as to hold two different colors of paint. The threaded glass work decorations cover with a decorative silver iridescence, a result of the chemical action of the soil in which it was long buried.

Glass has been used as a form of artistic expression for approximately 3,500 years. First appearing in the form of small beads in Mesopotamia, glass was soon shaped around preformed cores of earth to make hollow vases. During the middle of the first century B.C.E, a process for blowing glass into a variety of shapes was invented, probably along the Levantine coast. This process revolutionized the glass industry and created the basis for the mass production of glass vessels during the Roman era. With the blowing technique established, glass became a desirable and inexpensive commodity, available in diverse colors and decorative enhancements, with the unique quality of allowing the contents of a vessel to be seen through its walls.

Roman glass centers are known to have existed in nearly every quarter of the Mediterranean and beyond, from Syria to France and Germany, and from Egypt to Greece and Italy. A few glassworkers signed their works, and a number must have moved from one center to another, meeting the demand for fragile objects of art that did not travel well.

Adapted from

  • Anne R. Bromberg and Karl Kilinski II, Gods, Men, and Heroes: Ancient Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 103-104.
  • DMA unpublished material.

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