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Greek Hellenistic Core-Formed Glass Alabastron

Ancient Greece, ca. 2nd to 1st century BCE. A core-formed glass alabastron, so-named because many vessels that assumed this form were made of alabaster. The opaque bi-chrome vessel is comprised of primarily cobalt-blue glass with trails of yellow glass that have been combed into a festoon decoration. Additional trails of yellow glass coil across both ends of the fusiform body as well are the discoid rim. A pair of applied lug handles adorn the upper body and are formed from solid dark-blue glass. Brilliant rainbow iridescence scattered across several small areas of the composition make this an elegant example of Hellenistic artistry. Size: 1.375" W x 4.75" H (3.5 cm x 12.1 cm); 5.375" H (13.7 cm) on included custom stand.

The alabastron is a long-bodied vessel with a rounded bottom, a cylindrical neck, and a flat disk for a mouth. Though usually without handles, some alabastra have eyes or lugs, like this example. According to the Beazley Archive of the University of Oxford, the alabastron shape's history extends back to Corinth, but was only preserved in Athenian pottery examples back to the mid-sixth century BCE. Alabastra were created in many materials, including alabaster, and the Greek term for this stone. Alabastron (most likely of Egyptian origin) - was the source of inspiration for the name of this shaped vessel. Many examples were finished with a white ground, as if to imitate this stone. We know from vase painting imagery of women using alabastra following a bath, that these vessels most likely held perfumed oils.

According to the Corning Museum of Glass, core forming is "the technique of forming a vessel by winding or gathering molten glass around a core supported by a rod. After forming, the object is removed from the rod and annealed. After annealing, the core is removed by scraping." (https://www.cmog.org/glass-dictionary/core-forming). This process of glass making was begun in the late 16th century BCE by glassmakers of Mesopotamia, and then adopted by Egyptian glassmakers in the 15th century BCE. The technique almost came to an end in the so-called Dark Ages of Mediterranean civilization (1200 to 900 BCE); however, by the 9th century BCE a new generation of glassmakers took up the technique once again, and between the 6th and 4th century BCE core-forming spread throughout the Mediterranean.

A very similar, slightly-smaller example with a different-colored tooling pattern hammered for $10,625 at Christie's, New York Antiquities Auction (sale 2856, June 5, 2014, lot 42): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/ancient-art-antiquities/an-eastern-mediterranean-core-formed-glass-alabastron-circa-5800553-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5800553&sid=9bcf1355-aa4a-4657-9525-61e888d9c2ba

Condition: Repaired from multiple pieces with light restoration, resurfacing, and overpainting along break lines. Minor pitting across surface and nicks to rim, body, and base. Scattered areas of rainbow iridescence.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-private Allan Stone collection, acquired in 1960s to 1980s; ex-Art for Eternity, New York, New York, USA

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