collage art, Christof Maupin art, amphora

Articles of interest from our sister blog

As many of our regular readers know, I started a “sister blog” a few months ago, dealing with my exploration of the intersection of art from the past and art from the present, and specifically how this impacts my own work as an artist. As so much of my work is impacted by art from the distant past, I thought it worth sharing some of my posts from the other blog site. Comments welcome:

Some Thoughts on the Persistence of Classical Imagery

https://pastpresentartsandcrafts.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/some-thoughts-on-the-persistence-of-classical-imagery/

A few thoughts on the art of printmaking, views of antiquity and modern prints

https://pastpresentartsandcrafts.wordpress.com/2017/07/04/a-few-thoughts-on-the-art-of-printmaking-views-of-antiquity-and-modern-prints/

The art of enameling, ancient and modern

https://pastpresentartsandcrafts.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/the-art-of-enameling-ancient-and-modern/

A case study in reinterpreting an old technique: English slip decorated earthenwares and modern counterparts (including my own)

https://pastpresentartsandcrafts.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/a-case-study-in-reinterpreting-an-old-technique-english-slip-decorated-earthenwares-and-modern-counterparts-including-my-own/

Broken Things

https://pastpresentartsandcrafts.wordpress.com/2017/05/30/broken-things/

 

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A Large Late Roman Trail Decorated Barrel Shaped Glass Bead 4th-5th Century AD

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Our featured item of the week is a large and impressive example of a Late Roman to Early Byzantine barrel shaped glass bead, appearing black, decorated in both red and yellow trails. A set of four double trails of applied red divide the bead into a series of registers, each with a thick zig-zag trail of applied yellow. The surfaces are overall well preserved, with some surface weathering, particularly to the yellow trails; it is otherwise intact. This antiquity was formerly in a Canadian private collection.

The Roman glass industry was remarkably prolific and the remains of workshops or other tangible evidence of the industry’s presence have been found in every modern nation the Roman Empire once encompassed. Most Roman glass vessels are easy to categorize and date but glass beads can be more difficult. Glass beads, pendants and other small items seem to have been made by a separate set of craftsman operating in workshops distinct from those of glass blowers. Many bead types continued unchanged for centuries. This type of bead is typical of glass from the later Roman period and into the early Byzantine period, with a preference for very strong colors, and was widespread in Egypt, Israel / Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and beyond.

An excellent resource for readers with an interest in ancient glass beads is Maud Spaer, “Ancient Glass in the Israel Museum, Beads and Other Small Objects,” The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2001

Readers interested in purchasing this antiquity may find it on our eBay site here: http://www.ebay.com/itm/A-Large-Late-Roman-Trail-Decorated-Barrel-Shaped-Glass-Bead-4th-5th-Century-AD-/131894108807?hash=item1eb5806287:g:RwgAAOSwH3NXnPRG

And in our Etsy store here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/273956844/a-large-late-roman-trail-decorated?ref=shop_home_active_7

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Our Object the the Week: A Merovingian Frankish Silver and Glass Buckle, Late 5th – 6th Century AD

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This week we have selected a superb silver and glass buckle from Late Antiquity. This object was made at the moment in history when the Western European provinces of the Roman Empire were slipping further from centralised authority and becoming the de facto semi-barbarian kingdoms of the Franks, Visigoths, Saxons and others. Our object dates to the late 5th or 6th Century AD.

Intended either as a shoe buckle or a baldric buckle, this object features a nearly heart shaped silver “case” in which translucent, nearly transparent, red glass has been set. Holding this in place at the top or front facing side of the buckle is a silver frame that extends forward forming a double loop that also holds the buckle loop and tongue in place. It then folds back to form an attachment plate on the reverse with two pins that would have passed through fabric or leather. A supporting silver bar with two globular headed rivets adorns the center front of the buckle.

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The decorative technique used on this buckle was intended to imitate more expensive cloisonné decoration in either enamel or inset garnets. Cloisonné was a very popular decorative technique during the transitional period from Late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages. The name is derived from the French word “cloison” meaning “cell”. This refers to the technique of creating individual spaces by using thin metal wires or panels and filling these cells with garnets or other semi-precious stones or with colored enamel (glass paste). The most expensive cloisonné decoration involved garnets, typically imported from Sri Lanka. Enamel cloisonné was also common and used on buckles and strap ends, weapon handles and scabbards, brooches, jewelry and many other small objects.

Although colored enamel decoration on metalwork had a long history in pre-Roman Europe, continuing through the Roman period in the western provinces, the particular type of cloisonné we are concerned with here seems to have reached Europe by contact with the migratory cultures of Goths, Vandals, Franks and others during the 4th Century AD. This contact involved controlled settlement of some populations in exchange for military service, direct conflict with other groups (sometimes defeated militarily, sometimes paid off and kept at bay beyond the Roman frontiers) and forcible occupation of Roman territory, changing the cultural, political and artistic landscape of Europe over the next few centuries. The use of colored glass held in place by a metal casing, as with our object, was a less expensive but still striking technique that could imitate both enamel cloisonné and inset garnet decoration.

For those interested in acquiring this item it may be found in our Etsy store:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/452873332/merovingian-frankish-silver-and-glass?ref=shop_home_active_4

and our eBay shop: http://m.ebay.com/itm/Merovingian-Frankish-Silver-and-Glass-Buckle-Late-5th-6th-Century-AD-/131878940987?nav=SELLING_ACTIVE

 

Object of the Week: A Roman Glass Unguentarium

Our object of the week is an intact Roman glass toilet bottle, usually called an unguentarium. This name seems to be a 19th Century invention, based on the ancient Roman term “unguentarius,” a word used to describe sellers of perfumes. This type of glass vessel is believed to have been used for dispensing perfumed oils for both daily and ritual use. The actual Roman name for this type of vessel is unknown, despite the form being relatively common.

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Our example is structurally intact. The vessel consists of a long bag shaped body, wider and rounded towards the bottom, with a tall narrow neck that widens to a rim that has been thickened by folding it back over itself. Around the body is a thin trail of glass, applied while molten, making seven full revolutions around the vessel, starting from just above the base and ending at the rim. A pair of chunky handles are attached very thickly to the midpoint of the vessel, are pulled outward and meet it just below the rim. Much of this decorative trailing is still intact. There is some encrusted reddish soil inside the vessel and in recessed areas of the exterior, obscuring the vessel’s original color. The original glass color, which is a transparent green-blue, may be seen clearly at the top of the vessel in the first image above. The vessel sits on a thick, round pad base. When the glass worker was attaching the completed vessel to this base he did so slightly off-center, which may also be seen most clearly in the first of two photographs above.

Unguentaria were first made popular in the Hellenistic period but these were mainly of pottery. Many of these have survived, making them rather inexpensive today, and a few are available on our eBay and Etsy stores. While the pottery types continued into the Roman period, it was the development of glass blowing, making glass a common and affordable commodity rather then the preserve of the wealthy, that made our vessel possible. Blown glass unguentaria have survived in countless forms. The Corning Museum of Glass’ printed and online catalogs of unguentaria list dozens of distinct variations, though few have the twin handles of our example until the middle and late Roman period. Our example was made in the Eastern Mediterranean, probably in the coastal region of what is now Israel/Palestine and Lebanon This form continued on and developed in new directions during the early Byzantine period in the Near East and changed again with the advent of Islamic rule in the region.

This vessel was part of a large collection of antiquities formed by a Welsh collector between the 1970s and 2008, drawn from the UK and European art markets. The collection was dispersed at auction by Bonhams, London, Sale #16777, 29 April, 2009. this object was part of Lot # 302.

For those interested in purchasing this item, you may find it here —

Our Etsy store (opens in a new tab or window) – https://www.etsy.com/listing/261567267/roman-glass-unguentarium-late-3rd-4th?ref=shop_home_active_8

Our eBay store (opens in a new tab or window) – http://www.ebay.com/itm/Roman-Glass-Tubular-Vessel-with-Trailing-4th-5th-Century-AD-/131818636485?hash=item1eb100c4c5:g:SdoAAOSw6BtVU2zy

To learn more about unguentaria and ancient Roman glass in general, we recommend the following printed and web resources —

  1. E. Marianne Stern, “Roman, Byzantine and Early Medieval Glass, 10 BCE-700 CE” Ernesto Wolf Collection, 2001.
  2. Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, Volumes I and II, Corning Museum of Glass, 1997 and 2001, respectively

Because these printed resources are quite expensive, we also recommend online research. The Corning Museum of Glass has a tremendous online collection of ancient glass, especially Roman. A simple search for the word “Ancient” with an image brought up 4,644 results (new tab or window) – http://www.cmog.org/collection/search?f[0]=bs_has_image%3A1&f[1]=im_field_object_work_type%3A299021&solrsort=

Also useful is this exploration of Roman glass from the University of Pennsylvania Museum (new tab or window) – http://www.penn.museum/sites/Roman%20Glass/index.html

Greek bronze, ancient Greek art, British Museum

Greek Antiquities in the British Museum, London

The recent decision by The British Museum to send a single sculpture from the famed Parthenon Marbles (or Elgin Marbles) on loan briefly to the Hermitage in Russia, causing outrage in Greece, has once again drawn attention to issues of cultural heritage relating to antiquities. Whatever the merits of the arguments put forward by those demanding the return of the marbles to Greece and those arguing for their continued care in The British Museum – and both sides have many valid points – there can be no doubt that the Museum has been a vital source of knowledge, stewardship and inspiration for those with an interest in classical antiquity, in a way that perhaps no other institution in the world has. Visitors to London may drop in at the Museum free of charge, as millions do annually (6,701,000 in 2013) and this writer has on more than one occasion, to marvel at the most exquisite works of antiquity from all over the globe, thoughtfully presented in a secure and pleasant environment.

The current tempest over the brief loan to the Hermitage seems a good opportunity for a broader review of the British Museum’s ancient Greek holdings. Every medium and material is presented in their displays, including sculpture in stone and bronze, ceramics and terracotta, glass and organic materials. The collections reflect the broad sweep over time and geography of Greek influence in the broader Mediterranean world. In this brief photo essay, I have entirely left out the Parthenon marbles and have selected 15 images that are personal favorites and I hope capture a sense of the complexity of ancient Greek art. I have focused only on Greek art from the Archaic through Hellenistic periods and have incorporated works not only from Athens and other important centers in Greece itself but also in regional styles from Greek communities in Asia Minor, North Africa and southern Italy.

All images are original and should be credited to Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities.

 

Knidos, East Greek Sculpture, Greek antiquities, ancient Greek art
7 Ton marble lion from a Greek monumental tomb at Knidos (now in SW Turkey). The lion once stood atop the tomb, overlooking the sea approach to Knidos. The marble used is Pentellic and was brought from near Athens. The now hollow eyes were once filled with glass or metal to reflect the light. There is debate among scholars as to the age of the tomb, which survived only in fragments when uncovered in 1858; some attribute it to about 350 BC while another school of thought puts it in the middle Hellenistic period.  Now residing in the interior court of the British Museum.
A-2 Forepart of a monumental horse from the chariot group once surmounting the Masoleum
Forepart of a monumental marble horse from the chariot group that once surmounted the podium of the famed Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Circa 350 BC. This and a few other fragments in the British Museum, along with some in a small museum near the site, are all that remain of the sculpture that once adorned the Mausoleum. pilfering of usable stone blocks in antiquity and in the middle ages by local inhabitants and invaders, and burning of the marble to make lime plaster, as well as earthquakes, all left the great building shattered. Excavations in the 1960s showed that the burial chamber below ground had itself been looted in antiquity.
Nereid Monument, Lykian tombs, Xanthos, East Greek sculpture, ancient Greek art, British Museum
The Nereid Monument, finest of the Lykian tombs found at Xanthos, in what is now SW Turkey. Dated to about 390-380 BC, it is named for the statues of the Nereids, daughters of the sea god Nereus, between its columns. It reflects strong influences from both Greece and Persia. It is the first example of a temple-tomb in the region, the greatest of which would be the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, British Museum, Greek sculpture, Greek antiquities, ancient Greek art
Marble column drum carved in high relief, from the second Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, circa 330 BC. The lost site of the Temple was rediscovered after a long search in 1869 and many fragments, that would no doubt otherwise have been used by local people as construction material or burnt for lime, were sent to the British Museum.
Tanagra figurines,  terracotta figurines, Greek terracottas, Greek antiquities, ancient Greek art, British Museum
Tanagra terracotta figurines (named for the first find-spot of this type of figurine), some with polychromy remaining on the surfaces. All 3rd and 2nd Century BC. See the descriptive labels for details of each.
Marble tombstone Athens, Athens 425-400 BC, Athenian sculpture, ancient Greek sculpture, Greek antiquitiesm ancient Greek art, British Museum
Marble tombstone of a woman who died leaving her child in the care of a nurse. Athens, 425-400 BC
Artemis Bendis, Piraeus, Athenian sculpture, ancient Greek art, British Museum
Marble votive relief dedicated to the goddess Artemis Bendis. Found at Piraeus, the ancient and modern port of Athens. Bendis was a Thracian goddess, similar to the Greek Artemis, whose cult was introduced to Athens around 430 BC. She is shown here on a larger scale than her mortal worshipers, who may be athletes participating in a torch relay in her honor. This piece dates to about 375 BC.
Greek black figure pottery, Greek red figure pottery, British Museum, Panathenaic prize amphora, ancient Greek athletics
The red figure and earlier black figure pottery shown here are all prize amphorae. Filled with the finest olive oil, these were given to winning athletes in regional or civic competitions. They often depict the type of event for which they were given, such as foot races or chariot races. Mainly late 6th and 5th Century BC.
White ground jug made in Athens, Athenian pottery, Greek vases, British Museum
A white ground jug made in Athens in the early 5th Century BC. The woman is depicted holding a distaff in one hand while she uses the other to separate the fibers that will be spun into thread. White ground vessels are far less common than the typical black figure and red figure pottery of classical Athens. This is one of the finest Attic white ground vases I have ever seen, on account of its excellent preservation and fine line drawing.
Bronze head of a North African, Temple of Apollo at Cyrene Libya, Greek bronze sculpture, British Museum
A stunningly realistic cast bronze head of a North African man, possibly a native Libyan. From the Temple of Apollo at Cyrene, Libya, about 300 BC. It was found with fragments of bronze horses, suggesting it may have been part of a monumental equestrian group. The separately made lips were originally covered in copper sheet, the pupils of the eyes made of glass, the whites of the eyes from magnesium carbonate. The eyelashes were also separately cast and attached.
Apotheosis of Homer, temple in honor of Homer at Alexandria, Ptolemaic sculpture
Apotheosis of Homer. From a temple in honor of Homer at Alexandria, Egypt. Marble, later 3rd Century BC. Reading and reciting Homer was an essential part of Greek education and he was honored as a god in the Hellenistic period. A superb and complex example of early Ptolemaic sculpture, this fragment comes from a temple erected by Ptolemy IV Philopater and his Queen, Arsinoe III. They are shown in the bottom left corner behand the seated Homer. An altar is placed before Homer and worshipers come in procession. Other figures on the sculpture include key characters from the Iliad and Oddysey, his 2 great epics, and the 9 Muses.
native Italic Askos, Greek colony of Canosa, Greek South Italian pottery, Magna Graecia, British Museum
An elaborate pottery askos of native Italic form from the Greek colony of Canosa, Italy, 270-200 BC. In addition to the separately made figures attached, much of the original polychromy has survived. Painted in pink are 2 marine horses flying over a brown sea, while 3 figures of Nike are attached to the false spouts and handles and the foreparts of 2 horses to the wall of the vessel. Relief images of Medusa and a dancing Maenad also enhance the vessel.
Greek terracotta figurines, Magna Gaecia, Greek colonies, British Museum
Terracotta figurines from Magna Gaecia (the western Greek colonies), 3rd and 2nd Century BC. See the labels beneath each for details.
Red figure vases, Greek colonies of south Italy, Gnathian ware
A variety of red figure vases with applied white and red on a glossy black slip. Known as Gnathian Ware, these were produced in great numbers in the Greek colonies of South Italy. These examples date to about 350-320 BC.
East Mediterranean Hellenistic glass bowls, ancient Greek glass, mosaic glass bowls
East Mediterranean Hellenistic glass bowls made by slumping a round blank of hot glass over a negative form and applying canes and / or chips of contrasting glass until they fused. Despite being expensive to produce, these were widespread in the Mediterranean world. They were eventually replaced by the introduction of less expensive blown glass in the early Roman period. These date to between 125 and 50 BC.

News Item: Rich Grave Goods Point to East Anglian Royal Family

A remarkable excavation in the town of Exning, Suffolk, England may have uncovered members of the royal family of the ancient Saxon Kingdom of East Anglia. Twenty-one graves with rich grave goods, some imported from the Continent, dated to about 650 AD, point to this possible connection.

Here is a link to an article about this find in the British press (link opens in a new tab or window): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2838214/Have-ROYAL-skeletons-Suffolk-Bodies-buried-vast-amounts-jewellery-linked-King-Anna-East-Anglia.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

One of the key imported grave goods from this find is a glass bowl probably made in the Rhineland. The news article above includes an image of this, which would have been a very high status item in early Anglo-Saxon England. Here is an image of a similar bowl, on display in the Dover Museum.

ancient glass, Anglo-Saxon glass, Medieval glass

Glass bowl, dated AD 600-650, possibly from the Rhineland, in Dover Museum. Photo Credit: Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities

We will report further as more news of this discovery becomes available.

Mint Museum, Roman, Glass, Trust for Ancient Art

Clio’s Trust for Ancient Art Facilitates Gift of Ancient Glass to Mint Museum of Art

We are pleased to announce that our Trust for Ancient Art has rounded out the year by facilitating the donation of a collection of ancient Roman glass from an anonymous Atlanta collector, acquired many years ago in Israel, to the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Mint had previously benefited from the Trust’s donation of a superb Medieval English encaustic glazed floor tile. A few images of the Roman glass vessels now at the Mint Museum are included here.

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Clear vs Iridescent: Ancient Glass Collector Preferences

There are many varieties of ancient glass, spanning over 2,500 years of production and successive cultures, available both on the legitimate antiquities market and in museum collections on view to the public. The vast majority of ancient glass is relatively colorless Roman blown glass (as opposed to core formed, rod formed, mold made, slumped, cast or other techniques), dating between the 1st and 4th Centuries AD, a time when blown glass was produced on a truly industrial scale.

Today, serious collectors of Roman blown glass seem to fall into 2 categories:

1. Those who prefer their glass clear, with minimal iridescence or encrustation from burial in the ground. Here is an example —

2. Those who prefer their glass brightly iridescent, with colorful rainbow effects caused by extended burial in highly acidic or highly alkaline soils. Here is an example —

These are quite understandable reasons behind these choices. Those who prefer clear, relatively unaltered glass do so mainly because they wish to view the artifacts in something as close as possible to their original condition when in use. Many collectors who prefer highly iridescent glass do so because they simply enjoy the sometimes dazzling effects created by nature’s alteration of a man made surface.

The trend even extends to some older museum collections, where curators have selected only the most iridescent examples of Roman glass, hoping for an “Ohhh” and “Ahhh” effect from visitors, while neglecting the importance of displaying Roman glass in a condition as near as possible to the original “working” condition.

It is worth noting that some examples of ancient Roman blown glass were once highly iridescent but were “cleaned” of their iridescent surfaces. This destructive practice, which essentially removes much of the mass of the artifact, was common in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Experienced collectors will often shy away from such pieces, as the stripping away of their iridescent surfaces has left them with a clear surface but paper thin and fragile.

Here are some examples on our website of both highly iridescent Roman glass:

http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i98.html

http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i92.html

http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i62.html

and of relatively clear and unaltered Roman glass:

http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i144.html

http://www.clioancientart.com/catalog/i59.html

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.

The Ubiquitous Unguentarium

ImageNo other type of ancient Roman glass vessel is so widespread and common a find as the unguentarium (plural: unguentaria). As the name suggests, it was intended as a container for precious liquids, such as scented oils for personal or funerary use, medicinal creams and herbals for culinary use.

This type of vessel’s origins rest in the Hellenistic period and earlier, when roughly spindle shaped containers in ceramic were quite common. With the introduction of glass blowing on a large scale in the first century, AD, glass unguentaria rapidly replaced ceramic containers. Unlike pottery, glass has the advantage of imparting no taste or scent to its contents.

While the basic form — a bulbous lower body, long narrow neck, usually with a constriction somewhere along its length, and a flared rim — is common to all unguentaria, the range of specific forms is tremendous. The example illustrated above is a quite uncommon miniature example.

Visitors to museums, when viewing displays of Roman glass, often ask where the lids or stoppers to these vessels are. In most cases, these were made from organic materials, including tightly wound plant fiber or wood. Examples excavated at Romano-Egyptian sites have been found with these organic materials intact, due to the extremely dry conditions.

There are many excellent sources we could recommend dealing with the ubiquitous unguentarium but here are two, in particular —

* Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, Volume One, David Whitehouse, Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY, 2007. This tremendous work includes 87 fully illustrated and described examples of unguentaria (author uses the term “Toilet Bottles).

* Roman Glass, Reflections of Everyday Life, Stuart J. Fleming, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 1997. This is a particularly good source for building an understanding of how these humble glass vessels were actually used in the lives of the ancient Romans.

For all types of ancient glass on our online stores, follow these links —

Visit our eBay Store: http://www.ebay.com/usr/clioantiquities

Visit Our Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClioAncientArt