Cobalt-blue glass model boat

Roman, about AD 1-50
Made in Italy; said to be from Aquileia, northern Italy

A faithful imitation of a Roman cargo boat

This glass model boat, with its pointed bow and upright stern post, is a faithful imitation of a Roman cargo boat, but was evidently purely ornamental.

It was principally formed by the slumping process, that involved shaping a flat piece of glass by heating in order to allow gravity to force it downward over a ceramic form or mould. To achieve this final shape a lot of manipulation would have been required while the glass was still soft. After cooling it would have been cut, ground and polished.

A green model boat was found at Pompeii that is said to have contained jewels. It is likely that this boat also served as a container. These two, and the few other model boats in museums and collections elsewhere, were probably made in Italy. A number of glass factories producing vessels by methods other than blowing were established there for the first time in the age of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor (27 BC-AD 14). These early Italian factories were responsible for a fine series of glass tableware. By about AD 50, however, blown glass had become the norm, and by the end of the first century AD most production of non-blown vessels had ceased.

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More information


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

V. Tatton-Brown and W. Gudenrath, Catalogue of Greek and Roman g (London, The British Museum Press, forthcoming)

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


Length: 17.700 cm
Height: 3.100 cm

Museum number

GR 1869.6-24.20


Castellani Collection
Bequeathed by Felix Slade


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