Measurements: 9.2 cm height, 4.7 cm width


Description: A Roman green glass double balsamarium with captivating metallic silvery iridescence and trailing decoration, achieved by winding molten glass threads onto the body of the hot vessel in a spiral. The irregular space between individual lines affirms that this glasswork is uniquely handmade. The co-joined tubular phials have twin applied handles, which join to the rim. Balsamaria were small bottles, used as containers for ointments, powders, balms, and other liquids associated with the toilet, especially perfumes: the small mouth of the two flasks are ideal for slow, careful pouring while glass was preferred for holding liquids, due to its non-porous, non-absorbent nature. The two tubes could have been used to store two different colours or types of makeup. The tube's lengths meant that a spatula could have been inserted.


Balsamaria were made through the glass blowing process, which involved using a hollow clay or metal tube to gather molten glass into a sphere. By blowing air inside it, the glass worker created a hollow sphere, which he then stretched with the aid of gravity and metal tools into an elongated tube. Lines can be seen on the handles: those were created when the glass worker stretched the glass with tweezers.


Reference: RISD Museum

Christie's sale 6060, lot 170.


Period: 4th - 5th century AD


Condition: Very fine, intact, with earthy encrustations over the whole, especially prevalent in between the two phials mid-way down the balsamarium.


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