Visual Analysis Narrative
This Roman glass vase, which features a disk foot, was created using the blown glass method. This process was often deployed by Roman artisans to create glass vases and other containers. This vase features a lean neck that then expands to a wider belly at the base of this vase. This vessel is believed to have been translucent, if not completely transparent when first created, but in the course of time, the glass’s color changed to feature dark tints of brown and yellow due to oxidation. Moreover, the vessel has symmetrical characteristics that run up the side of the vase: dark blue ridges serving as handles as they lead to the opening of the vase. Additionally, though these black ridges were already a dark color initially, they have only become darker over time, creating a stark contrast with the light color of the vessel itself. Because the handles are now dark it is hard to tell whether they featured any decorative elements along the side of container.
Vases like this apothecary bottle were predominantly used for holding expensive liquids, such as oils, wine, medicine, and perfumes. These vessels were used by their owners on a daily basis as tableware as well as medicine and perfume containers. They were thus essential to the daily life of those who owned them. Compared to other pieces of glasswork made by the Romans, this vase shares some similarities with tableware of the time, with a thin bottle neck that made pouring out liquids simpler for those who used it. The age and wear of this piece can be easily seen through its dark colors and tints. In fact through these characteristics one could hypothesize that this piece was found in archaeological context rather than a succession of private ownership.
Other Roman glass artworks have maintained their transparency, making them even more valuable and beautiful. Examples, both original and replications, can be found below:
This glass bowl is Persian rock crystal- this sort of work served as a sort of ‘eastern inspiration’ for Roman glass works. This crystal was viewed as one of the world’s most desirable materials for this sort of work. The translucent nature of this piece is replicated in our Roman glass vase.
This vase (crafted in the 19th century as an imitation of Roman glass work) is emblematic of the sheen caused by corrosion of the glass. Vickers asserts that this aesthetic is created by the vase basically shedding it’s initial paint to reveal traces of the original medium of the vessel; this aesthetic is demonstrated by our own Roman glass vase, which is greatly appreciated by the viewers and followers of Ancient Roman art.
This is a secondary example of the aforementioned corrosion and its desirability in the art community. It is a gold jug from the Iron Age. Moreover, the corrosion is ultimately one of the fine details that gives these vessels their rarity and value due to the fact it is a direct representation of the age and culture of the vase.
The function of this glass vase was mainly to hold expensive liquids such as wine, oils, perfume and medicine. They were not necessarily used for holding water, as they are quite small and therefore not particularly practical water containers. This vessel may have been used as an apothecary bottle to hold medicinal substances in particular. Given its belly which leads up to a relatively narrow mouth, this vase was likely also used to pour the liquids out for quick access to what the owner needed inside. The opacity of the glass would have served to preserve the liquid inside, as exposure to light causes oils to turn rancid. This object was mainly located in the dining room or in the kitchen since it would predominantly be used to hold wine or oil for drinking or cooking. The vase was also commonly used in bedrooms to serve as a container for either perfume or medicine. The vessel’s location, then, is significant for understanding its function. This glass bottle was used by Ancient Romans around the third century, perhaps as a portable means of transporting beverages. These vases were commonly used by all social classes of Romans as an everyday device and likely were not thought of as art. The upper class, however, would likely have more decorative vases made out of finer materials.