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Glass cylindrical box


Height: 11.800 cm (box)
Diameter: 39.500 cm (box)
Height: 11.800 cm (box)
Diameter: 39.500 cm (box)

Formerly in the Castellani collection

GR 1873.8-20.427

Room 70: Roman Empire

    Glass cylindrical box

    Said to be from near Rome, Italy
    Probably made around AD 50

    Blown in a mould

    Only a shallow dish of similar greenish-blue glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, New York, can be compared in size with this extraordinary large lidded box. The technique used to make the cylindrical box was previously a mystery, but after recent close examination, it is now known to have been blown in a mould. The Corning dish is also likely to have been blown.

    These remarkable pieces, the lidded box and the dish, may belong to the first century AD, when the Italian glass industry, having discovered glass blowing, went through a period of experimentation.

    Other mould-blown vessels are of more modest proportions, and many were blown into decorated moulds. It would have required considerable skill to make this box and its lid, and to add the knob to the lid, as well as the decoration. Also on the lid are concentric raised ridges which encircle the lid quite near the edge. More raised ridges appear on the box. On the inside at the bottom is a series of small concentric circles with a centre point.

    In the British Museum register the box is described as containing ashes, so it was perhaps used as a cremation urn. Originally, it probably had a more domestic purpose.

    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)

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


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    On display: Room 70: Roman Empire

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