Glass bowl with enamelled decoration

Said to be from Greece
Probably made in a glasshouse in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, about AD 50-75

A duck and a basket of flowers

Bowls similar to this, decorated with enamelled animal and floral compositions, were made in northern Italy. However, the decoration of the underside distinguishes this bowl from that group. The Italian examples have a rosette on the bottom: this bowl has an enamelled star. It is, in fact, a rare example of an enamelled bowl from a glasshouse in the east.

Other enamelled vessels made in eastern glasshouses include flasks of a type not known in the west, and a group of tall beakers similar to those with facet-cut designs. Several of the enamelled beakers come from Begram in Afghanistan, beyond the political frontiers of the Roman Empire, but on an important trade route leading to India and the Far East.

All painted decoration on glass that has survived from antiquity must have been enamelled. Patterns simply painted onto cold glass would have completely disappeared. Finely powdered coloured glass, suspended in a liquid medium, was applied to the surface to be enamelled. The vessel was then placed in a cool area of the furnace (a lehr) to allow gradual cooling at the end of the hot working process. The glass was gradually reheated to just below softening point to allow it to be reattached to a pontil (a metal rod). It was then returned to the furnace until all the enamels glowed and were fused to the surface.

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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: 7.000 cm
Diameter: 8.200 cm (rim)
Diameter: 8.200 cm (rim)

Museum number

GR 1905.11-7.2



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