Date Shaped Aubergine Glass Unguentarium

£ 1,700.00

An extremely fine Ancient Roman mould-made aubergine coloured glass unguentarium, featuring an oval shaped body and a short neck leading to a rounded, everted rim. The vessel’s body replicates the appearance of a ripe date, with wrinkles and ridges imitating the fruit’s uneven surface. Dates were widely used across many Mediterranean regions, often used to sweeten food and wine, but were also a symbolic gift given at the New Year. A mesmerising rainbow coloured iridescence covers the surface of the object.

Date: Circa 1st – 2nd Century AD
Provenance: Ex private collection, SM, London, 1970-1999.
Condition: Extremely fine, complete and intact. The vessel features beautiful multicolour iridescence. Rare item.


Product Code: RSG-48

As in the modern day, glassware in antiquity was considered an art form, with the best pieces were valued higher than wares made from precious metals. Glass bottles, such as this interesting example, were used as containers for ointments, powders, balms, and other expensive toiletry liquids, especially perfumes: the small mouth of the bottle is ideal for slow, careful pouring, while glass was preferred for holding liquids, due to its non-porous, non-absorbent nature. Glass vessels are found frequently at Hellenistic and Roman sites, especially in cemeteries, and the liquids that filled them would have been gathered from all corners of the expansive Roman Empire. Thanks to the invention of glass blowing it became possible to create moulds in order to mass produce popular designs. Unusual shapes, like this example, experienced great popularity. Most moulds were made out of clay or plaster, but, likely, the mould employed for this beautiful flask was made from an actual dried date.

To learn more about Roman glass, visit our relevant post: How It Was Made: Roman Glass.

Dimensions H 6.7 cm

Blown Glass


Southern Europe

Reference: For a similar item, The Metropolitan Museum, item 91.1.1295.

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