A beautifully iridised and exceedingly rare libation bowl otherwise known as a phiale. Made from translucent pale blue-hued glass and appearing clear in parts. Formed to have a smooth interior and a deep fold to the outer rim.
Typically Roman glass libation bowls are found to be plain and undecorated, by contrast, this piece exhibits an extensive radial pattern that resembles the ‘nipt-waies’ technique. Notably this pinched glass technique was reborn and employed extensively in Italy almost a millennium and a half later, this may be one of the earliest recorded examples of such work. The tooled decoration is exceedingly rare to find during this period as moulds were employed ubiquitously to produce relief patterns so that further working is not required; similar decoration in the form of undulating bands can be found adorning later jugs.
This Roman glass phiale is based on earlier Greek examples made in the preceding centuries from pottery, metal or wax cast glass. The decorative underside resembles the common foliate flower motifs that were either painted, cast or beaten onto those earlier shallow phiales. A fantastic example of cross-cultural decorative inspiration as the maker has paid homage to important artifacts of the time.
Date & Origin
Roman, Early to Mid Imperial Era, 1st - 3rd century CE.
Pitting throughout, patches of thick creamy flaking layers with stunning iridescence. A professional restoration has been carried out likely at the time of excavation.
The Unger Private Collection, London.
View documented examples in chronological order
5th - 4th century BCE: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/255281
4th century BCE: http://emuseum.toledomuseum.org/objects/57947
1st century CE: https://www.penn.museum/collections/object/126612
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