Cobalt-blue glass beaker

Roman, AD 50-100
Possibly from Brindisi, Puglia, Italy

Blown into a silver case

This remarkable beaker, blown into a silver case, may illustrate a special technique described by the Roman writer, Pliny the Elder (AD 23/4-79), and probably fashionable in his day. Pliny (Natural History, XXXIII, 139-405) writes of the technique of cutting openwork designs in metal such as silver. These could have been casings for glass, and our piece is the only surviving example of Pliny's day. Its date is suggested by tall mould-blown beakers decorated with knobs. Many of these have been found at Pompeii and Herculaneum, and so must date from before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius of AD 79, though examples are known from all parts of the Mediterranean world.

On the beaker is written 'Brindisi 2 febr 1865', inferring that it was found at this site on the south Adriatic coast of Italy at the end of the Roman road, the Via Appia.

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More information


H. Tait (ed.), Five thousand years of glass-1, 2nd paperback edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

D.B. Harden and others, The British Museum: masterpiec (London, 1968)

D. Harden (ed.), Glass of the Caesars, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1988)


Height: 9.300 cm
Diameter: 6.200 cm

Museum number

GR 1870.9-1.2


Bequeathed by Felix Slade


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