Object of the Week: A Roman Glass Juglet Pendant

This week’s featured antiquity is a remarkable late Roman glass pendant in the shape of a vase or juglet. It belongs to a class of decorative pendants and related objects that first appear in the Eastern Mediterranean in the mid-Third Century AD and evolve into a variety of types and forms into the Fifth Century AD.

Dating to the Fourth Century AD, this example measures just over one inch in height. It is an especially uncommon form of glass pendant featuring two handles. One handle is broken away in this example but the connection points are visible. In addition, this piece is shaped like a slender glass vessel rather than the more typically jug form. The body of this object is formed of a very dark brown or purple glass, appearing black, with a fine applied rim trail of light brown. The surviving handle appears to be formed of the same color glass as the body. A disc base has been separately applied. Incorporated into the body are slices from at least four glass beads or canes, including two eye beads in red and yellow and two composite slices featuring canes of alternating colors.

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Objects of this type were made not be glass blowers but by bead makers. In fact, if one were to remove the small handle and open the foot of this object it would become a bead. The strong dark colors are typical of the revival of that palette among Roman glass makers beginning in the mid to late Third Century, as seen on both glass beads and glass vessels in the late Roman world.

While it has been suggested that this type of glass pendant may have had a Christian religious significance, there is no real evidence one way or the other. Another theory is that these were miniature scent bottles worn on the body. While finds of these objects seem to be concentrated in the Levantine region, with another substantial grouping in Egypt, suggesting they may have been manufactured in both locations, examples have been found in Southern and Central Europe and in Rome itself.

An excellent reference on this class of objects is Maud Spaer, “Ancient Glass in the Israel Museum, Beads and Other Small Objects” catalog #s 343-354 for several similar examples, and pages 170-173 for a detailed description of the general type.

Readers interested in acquiring this item may find it in our Etsy store here – https://www.etsy.com/listing/479831410/late-roman-glass-juglet-pendant-4th?ref=shop_home_active_1

and our eBay store here – http://www.ebay.com/itm/Late-Roman-Glass-Juglet-Pendant-4th-Century-AD-/132009555359?hash=item1ebc61f59f:g:RsMAAOSwj85YMjZk

FINE EGYPTIAN, HELLENISTIC AND ROMAN ANTIQUITIES AND ANCIENT COINS ADDED TO OUR WEBSITE

Customers. Friends and Fans:

We have updated the Clio Ancient Art with some very fine Egyptian, Hellenistic and Roman antiquities in faience, bronze, glass and ceramic, as well as Roman, Byzantine and medieval coins. The Egyptian and Hellenistic items in particular have an exceptional provenance. Here they are with links to each item –

Thank you for visiting our site. We can also be found on Etsy, Ebay and on Shopify via our Facebook page.

Best wishes,

Chris M. Maupin

Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities

Roman Coins. Roman antiquities, ancient Rome

Roman Silver Coin Hoard Discovered During Excavation in Bulgarian Capital

A large hoard of Roman silver coins of the 1st and 2nd Century AD has been discovered by archaeologists working in the Bulgarian capital city, Sofia. Known to the Romans as Serdica, Sofia was once a major Roman urban site. A detailed article on this discovery, including many excellent photographs, may be found here (opens in a new tab or window) – http://archaeologyinbulgaria.com/2015/09/04/archaeologists-discover-treasure-of-silver-roman-coins-during-excavations-of-ancient-serdica-in-bulgarias-capital-sofia/

Udjat: The Eye of Horus

One of the most recognizable forms of ancient Egyptian art is the udjat (also spelled wedjat and utchat), an amulet representing the eye of the Sky God Horus. The udjat amulet is also one types of art or artifact from ancient Egypt that has survived in fairly large numbers, making it easily accessible on the legitimate antiquities market today.

The udjat seems to have made its appearance during the later part of the Old Kingdom, around 2,300 BC, and continued into the Roman period, disappearing around 200 AD due to changes in belief systems. It was made in every material imaginable, including gold, electrum, silver, semi-precious and other hard stones, wood, pottery, faience and glazed composition, these last two materials being the most common. Most surviving examples are small, simple monochrome or polychrome glazed composition but the range of decorative styles and techniques, as well as sizes, was tremendous. In this brief photo essay we will look at images of some well documented examples, from Clio Ancient Art and museum collections.

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The example shown above, sold by Clio Ancient Art in 2013 to a US collector and formerly in an old UK private collection, offers a clear picture of the elements of the udjat. Each element of this seemingly simple design  — the right side, the pupil, the eyebrow, the left side, the curved tail and the teardrop — is actually part of a complex Egyptian mythology, each represented by all or part of a hieroglyphic symbol. The term “udjat” can be translated as “whole one”, a reference to the primal conflict between the Sky God Horus and his evil rival Set, in which Horus lost his eye in battle. Thoth (depending on the version of the story over time, also Isis or Hathor) magically restored the eye, thus restoring order and “maat” — the fundamental force of order and good in the Egyptian world view. Because Horus’ right eye was said to represent the Sun and his left eye the Moon, the loss and restoration of his eye was equated with the darkening and lightening of the Moon during its phases. And because the eye’s restoration was so important in Egyptian mythology, with many variations over time and regionally, the udjat took on a powerful protective characteristic, making it an especially efficacious personal and funerary amulet. So, this simple design offers much muore than meets the eye!

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The example above is an openwork type of the Third Intermediate or Late Period, 1,069 – 332 BC, in glazed composition (self glazing material, similar to pure faience but with a more complex internal structure).

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Above is a rather large polychrome example in blue green and black faience, dating to the Late Period, 712-332 BC.

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Most specimens more closely resemble the small, simple example shown above in polychrome faience. All of these, including the openwork example, have been pierced lengthwise to allow for suspension on a string or as one element of many in a more complex piece of jewelery.

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This complex, superbly crafted example, now on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, features added symbols, including a lion (the war goddess Sekhmet?), a rearing cobra (the “uraeus”, a symbol of kingship and divinity) and wings (perhaps the protective wings of Isis or Hathor). This object may be viewed on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website at: http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/561047?rpp=20&pg=1&ao=on&ft=udjat-eye+amulet&pos=1

ImageThis Late Dynastic example from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, utilizes simplified forward facing seated baboons as a decorative element in the eyebrow. Thoth, who restored the eye to Horus, was often depicted as a baboon in Egyptian art, including small amulets. This example may be viewed on the FAMSF website here: http://art.famsf.org/utchat-or-eye-horus-blue-1925178

Of course, we cannot overlook the fine example below of the Eye of Horus, featured on Mickey the Cat, who inhabits the Clio Ancient Art offices here in Wilmington, NC.

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Clio Ancient Art Egyptian Antiquities

Egyptian Antiquities in the Petrie Museum of Egyptology, London

Established in 1892 primarily as a teaching tool for the new Department of Egyptology, University College’s Petrie Museum of Egyptology is tucked away in a rather obscure location off Gower Street. Were it not for a few colorful banners pointing the way, it would be difficult to find. Visiting hours are quite limited. Started with the donation of a few private collections, the Petrie’s holding grew enormously in the first few decades of the 20th Century through the prolific excavation work in Egypt of Sir William Flinders Petrie. Removed from London during the Second World War for safekeeping, the collections were returned in the 1950s and housed in a former stables building, where they remain today.
The Petrie’s collections are particularly rich in Pre-Dynastic and Early Dynastic materials, especially pottery, as well as textiles and costumes, glass and faience, papyri and inscribed architectural fragments, many with string colors remaining. Unusually, much of the material has clear provenance, having been obtained through controlled excavations with find spots recorded. Also rather unusual is the fact that the Museum’s collections cover not just Dynastic Egypt but also Roman, Byzantine / Coptic and early Islamic materials.
The immediate impression one receives upon getting clear of the small admissions area and entering the Museum itself is of the stereotypical “old fashioned” dark and dusty late 19th or early 20th Century museum experience. There is nothing nostalgic about this. The fact that the Museum is housed in what was once a stables now makes its impact. The spaces are very tight. There is very little room around most of the old fashioned, academic display cases for more than one or two visitors to look at the contents. The lighting is dim (though in some instances this is to help preserve light sensitive materials), making it difficult to enjoy even the most impressive pieces. Objects are stuffed together tightly in small cases, accompanied by descriptive labels that might be less than informative to a visitor with no background in Egyptology. In most instances, obtaining good photographs is nearly impossible due to the lighting conditions and highly reflective glass of the old cases. The overall impression left is one of frustration at not being able to adequately enjoy the many wonderful pieces on display, and of puzzlement as to why such an extraordinary collection has been relegated to such an inadequate space.
Having said all this, the Petrie is still very much worth a visit for anyone with more than a passing interest in ancient Egypt and the ancient Mediterranean world in general. The images below are intended to provide only a modest sample of what awaits the visitor. Enjoy!
Clio Ancient Art Egyptian Antiquities

Ancient glass from Egypt, dating from early Roman through Byzantine & early Islamic

Clio Ancient Art Egyptian Antiquities

Display of pre-dynastic and early dynastic pottery

Clio Ancient Art Egyptian Antiquities

Egyptian and Phoenician glass inlays and small objects, mainly Late Dynastic and Ptolemaic

Clio Ancient Art Egyptian Antiquities

Coptic period St Menas Flasks and pottery

Clio Ancient Art Egyptian Antiquities

Inscription from Pyramid of Pepi II, Saqarra, circa 2250 BC

Clio Ancient Art Egyptian Antiquities

Late Dynastic shabtis of exceptional quality

Clio Ancient Art Egyptian Antiquities

Painted wood funerary stele showing the deceased adoring Horus. Dynasty XXII or later.

Clio Ancient Art Egyptian Antiquities

Painted Wooden Stela of Neskhons, Queen of Pharaoh Pinezem II, Dynasty XXI. The deceased Queen adores Osiris whose green skin suggests regeneration and rebirth.

Clio Ancient Art Egyptian Antiquities

Middle Kingdom polychromed fragmentary funerary stela.

Late Roman Rod Formed Glass Vase Amulets

Among the more intriguing and beautiful glass antiquities available on our website are three examples of vase amulets dating from the later Roman era. These come in a variety of forms and colors, and first appear in the archaeological record around the mid-3rd Century AD (or CE, if one prefers). Production seems to have begun in the broader Syria / Palestine area, though examples have been found over a very wide area, including western Europe. It is thought that as they spread beyond their initial point of manufacture they were copied by glass artisans elsewhere.

The purpose or symbolism of these objects remains obscure. It has been suggested that their appearance and diffusion is somehow directly connected to the spread of Christianity but there is very little evidence to support this.

These remarkable objects were created by bead makers, not glass blowers. Their structure is basically that of a short tubular bead, closed at one end, tooled to create a neck or mouth, and enhanced with a tiny loop handle and either trailed and marvered  decoration in a contrasting color or a contrasting latticework applied to the body. the first example shown below is an example of the latticework type, while the second and third examples illustrate the trailed decoration.

Links to these objects on our site and “clickable” images –

http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i375.html

Imagehttp://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i376.htmlImagehttp://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i377.html

ImageFor further reading on this class of objects we recommend:

E. Marianne Stern, Roman, Byzantine, and Early Medieval Glass, 10 BCE – 700 CE, Ernesto Wolf Collection, Osfildern-Ruit, 2001,

Maud Spaer, Ed., Ancient Glass in the Israel Museum, Beads and Other Small Objects, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2001.

www.clioancientart.com

Egyptian Faience Production and a Skullcap of Ptah on Our Website

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One of the more extraordinary objects offered on our website is a Late Dynastic Egyptian blue skullcap detached from a statuette of the god Ptah. It may be viewed here: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i11.html.

We have described this antiquity as being made of “frit” — a term sometimes but erroneously used interchangeably for faience. But why did we choose this term? What is meant by the term “fit: and is this really the same material as faience?

We will examine here some characteristics of Egyptian faience, its production techniques and the range of materials that are broadly referred to as faience in relation to our object, which may well be a rather unusual variant.

Faience, which the Egyptians called tjehnet (meaning brilliant or shining) may have been developed as an alternative to lapis, an expensive deep blue stone whose main source was distant Afghanistan. Whatever the motivation, faience production began as early as 5000 BCE and continued through the late Roman period around 350 CE. Early faience involved simple glazing of stone objects such as beads. The primary component of faience was a readily available material, quartz. This was ground to powder and mixed with calcium oxide and natron (a type of salt commonly found in the Egyptian desert) and possibly other materials, including metallic oxides to provide coloring. Faience could be used to glaze other materials, such as soapstone, and later to create finished objects by pressing the mixture into molds. Some faience was “self-glazing” in that a hard shiny surface layer of salts would form on an object’s surface through efflorescence. Faience was fired in kilns at relatively high temperatures, up to 1000 degrees Centigrade.

Egyptian artisans combined long established skills and technologies from pottery making and metallurgy to perfect their craft. In the early New Kingdom, with the probable arrival of glass artisans from Mesopotamia, a new component was added to this skill set, and a number of variants on the basic formula emerged. These included frit, also known as Egyptian Blue, which had much in common with glass making, and so-called “glassy faience”. This is where our skullcap of Ptah comes in.

Close examination of the underside of this object –

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reveals two several unusual aspects. In the deeply recessed and therefore protected interior underside, which would have rested atop the statuette’s head, a shiny glass-like surface is revealed. Shiny examples of glassy faience are known to exist. Also, in two spots there are small breaks along the object’s edge that have fractured in a manner very much resembling flint or volcanic glass. Finally, the chips mentioned above reveal the interior of the object to be identical to that of the exterior, with no thin outer layer of efflorescence or glaze differing from the interior composition. This gives it more in common with blue frit than ordinary faience.

In the end, only a chemical analysis of our object will provide a more complete answer. However we might classify this material, the object itself is highly unusual.

For some comparable examples, we suggest –

* Gifts of the Nile, Ancient Egyptian Faience, Florence Dunn Friedman, Editor, with four examples of wigs and crowns from composite statuettes, and inlays in the form of wigs, dating from the New Kingdom and 3rd Intermediate Periods, pages 82-83 (we highly recommend this excellent book).

Stern & Schlick-Nolte, Early Glass of the Ancient World, 1600 BC – AD 50, Ernesto Wolf Collection, No. 26, for a small Egyptian male head, probably 10th-7th Century BC, made of “vitreous material” remarkably similar in color and texture.

* Lacovara, Trope & D’Auria, editors, The Collector’s Eye: Masterpieces of Egyptian Art from the Thalassic Collection, Ltd., Michael C. Carlos Museum, Atlanta, 2001, #29 for a large skullcap of Ptah in bright blue faience, as an inlay, dated to the New Kingdom.

For other examples of Egyptian faience objects on our website in a variety of colors –

* A string of discoid beads in bright blue faience of the Ptolemaic or Roman period: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i289.html

* An Eye of Horus amulet in green and black of the Late Dynastic period: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i407.html

* Another Eye of Horus amulet in pale blue and black of the New Kingdom: http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i408.html