ANCIENT ROMAN IRIDESCENT CANDLESTICK UNGUENTARIUM

S O L D

Measurements: 14.5 cm – height, 5.4 cm – width

 

Description: A tall glass "candlestick" unguentarium of blue, green, and purple colour, displaying considerable beautiful iridescence. The word iridescence comes from Iris, the Greek goddess of rainbows and refers to rainbow-like colours seen on glass. It is caused by alkali being leached from the glass by acidic water and then forming fine layers that eventually separate slightly or flake off, causing a prism effect on light bouncing off and passing through the surface which reflects light differently, resulting in a rainbow-like appearance such as the one on this unguentarium. From the conical body a long neck tapers into a flat, asymmetrical rim. The base is slightly concave underneath. Unguentaria were extremely popular throughout the Roman Empire, since they contained perfume and oil, considered precious at the time and often used both in private life and public ceremonies. This type of unguentarium is among the most popular glass shapes of the Roman Empire.  

 

Reference: Hayes, J. W., Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in Royal Ontario Museum, 1975, no. 236.

Harvard Art Museums

Museum of Fine Arts Boston

 

Period: 1st to 3rd century AD

 

Condition: Very fine, intact, considerable iridescence and some bubbles on stem and body, surface with some encrustations on interior of the neck and opening. Minor stress crack to the rim.

 

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