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Rare Roman Glass Bottle w/ Marbled Surface

Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. Time has made the surface of this piece gorgeous, with a smooth exterior that features pearlescent highlights over nearly all of its surface; the deep blue color of the glass shines through underneath, giving the surface a marbled appearance. The vessel itself has an abstract, apple-shaped body with a flared, conical neck topped by a narrow rolled rim. Size: 1.5" W x 1.9" H (3.8 cm x 4.8 cm)

This bottle would have been used to transport and preserve unguents and/or cosmetics; its narrow neck prevented evaporation. The use of perfumes and cosmetics was so widespread in Roman society that encyclopedist Pliny the Elder and the satirist Martial, both writing in the 1st century CE, bemoaned and ridiculed the habits of Roman citizens for smothering their hair and body in the costly scented oils. Unguentaria like this one would have been used daily in the household and probably buried with their owners.

Condition: Intact, with incredible marbled pearlescent surface. The underside of the vessel possesses a pontil scar or mark which indicates that the vessel was free-blown. (The absence of such a mark would suggest that the work was either mold-blown or that the mark was intentionally smoothed away or wore away over time.)

Provenance: private Davis collection, Houston, Texas, USA

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