Cosmetic Jar (Unguentarium)
Unknown artist, Roman
Cosmetic Jar (Unguentarium), ca. 50 CE
Glass, free-blown with pinched ribs
Height: 8.3 cm (3 1/4 inches)
Jesse Metcalf Fund 83.154
While the scented oil or perfume that this bottle once held would have been the real prize in the ancient world, the container is itself a splendid piece of craftsmanship. This vessel was free blown, despite the fact that a simpler method of manufacture—blowing the molten glass into a mold— was well known in the Mediterranean area at this time. To create the marbled effect seen here, fragments of blue, purple, and white glass were melted and mixed together, which produced a stretched and swirled appearance when blown. The ribbing was formed by pinching the hot glass with a metal tool. Given the vessel’s wonderful state of preservation, it most likely held an offering of oil that was buried in a grave.