Roman Glass Unguentaria
Roman Glass Unguentaria
The Roman Empire, c. 100-200AD.
Beautiful Roman era glass bottle. The Romans began the modernization of glass-making over 2000 years ago. The word glass (Latin vitrum) developed in the Roman Empire possibly at Trier, Germany. Ancient Roman glass can be classified as soda-lime glass. It was made from silicon, sodium and calcium oxides, with the addition of potassium, magnesium and aluminium oxides. Glassmakers would also use colorants if they wanted the glass to have a specific color. Copper was used to make turquoise to light blue, green, or red colored glass. Cobalt made glass deep dark blue. Manganese and antimony were used to make the glass yellow, white, and purple. Iron was used to make a light blue, green, brown and black color. The wide array of colors were chosen to to mimic the colors of precious gemstones, such as lapis lazuli, amethyst, and turquoise.
These often narrow long-necked bottles are called unguentaria (also referred to as Unguentarium, Balsamarium or Lacrimarium) and were probably used as a container for oils and lotions, though it is also suited for storing and dispensing other liquid and powdered substances. While unguentaria often appears among the grave goods, the purpose of their inclusion has not been derermined with centainty. Although the unguentaria seems often to been buried along with other objects associated with or treasured by the deceased or as a grave gift, they may have also have held substance, such as oil, wine, or powdered incense, for graveside ritual.
The form of this bottle was widely popular throughout the Roman Empire and occurs on many sites from the end of the first century to the beginning of the fourth. A free-blown glass bottle with a heavily compressed spherical body, an elongated cylindrical neck with a flared, in-folded rim, and flat bottom. The exterior of the yellowish, pale olive-green vessel has developed lustrous layers of silvery and rainbow-hued iridescence that elegantly complement its delicate form. The surface of the interior is calcified and encrusted with minerals over the years. Moderate condition. Repaired. Chip and fractures. Size approx. 8,0cm x 3,7cm x 3,7cm.
Provenance: From the collection of painter and tv producer Ole Braunstein (1917–1999). Donee of the Høyen Prize in 1984.
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