- Museum number
Glass beaker; semi-transparent light greyish green; almost cylindrical, tapering to a lightly rounded, possibly almost flat, base; cut facets in three registers; possibly showing a fire altar beneath two rows of arcading.
- Production date
- 6thC (about)
Diameter: 6.30 centimetres (rim exterior)
Diameter: 5.80 centimetres (rim interior)
Height: 21.20 centimetres
Weight: 142 grammes
Volume: 430 millilitres
- Curator's comments
This has been previously described as a vase, phial, lamp or beaker. The schematic decoration beneath the arcades has been compared to a fire-altar, for instance as depicted on Sasanian coins and thus the decoration is a counterpart to a series of Late Roman glass lamps with blue prunts and engraved crosses; however, the resemblance to a fire altar could be purely fortuitous as this style of alternating vertical and horizontal facets is a common style of faceting on Late Roman glass; the honeycomb-like faceting at top and bottom is of course purely Sasanian. Another possibility is that this decoration is deliberately ambiguous in its meaning. Its suggested function as a lamp is very unlikely as lamps are normally broader at the top (in order to maximise the impact of the light thrown upwards) and have a secure means of placing in a polycandelon or candelabrum (observations by MM. Negro-Ponzi 12/9/03). Thus the straight sides of this vessel suggest that it was intended instead as a beaker, the capacity of which should be compared with that of hemispherical bowls and stemmed goblets. Finally it might be remarked that it is possible that vessels like this might have had elaborate metal mounts, now missing, particularly if it was made or used in a region like the Caucasus (pers. comm. Dr Gennady Ivanov, 16/9/03).
Air-path X-ray fluoresence spectrometry analysis conducted to check authenticity as the vessel is surprisingly light in weight: the reason is unclear (BMRL file 6773, dated 1 September 1995). Subsequent scientific analysis by Dr Abe shows the composition to be natron glass rather than plant ash glass. This result is consistent with a small number of other glass vessels excavated at Veh Ardashir or in other collections and shows that the Sasanians occasionally imported natron glass chunks and/or blanks from the eastern Roman empire.
A dubious faceted glass bowl of identical fabric and soapy feel was brought in for opinion on 27/3/98.
Unpublished Cernuschi catalogue entry
Faceted glass beaker
Said to be from Iran
Possibly 5th century
H 21.2, exterior rim D 6.3, interior rim D 5.8 cm, capacity 430 ml, weight 142 g
Barnett 1963: 100; Pinder-Wilson 1963: pl. XVa; Pinder-Wilson 1968: 106, no. 138; Harden 1972: 83, pl. VID; Pinder-Wilson 1991: 114, fig. 137
London, The British Museum 132985 (1962-10-13,1)
Large almost cylindrical beaker, blown from semi-transparent light greyish green glass; almost flat base with all traces of pontil removed with a single large facet; plain rounded rim; covered with linear and circular cut facets: at the top, a register of three rows of overlapping circular facets in quincunx formation; below this, what resembles an arcaded frieze with nine arches on piers or columns, with oval facets within each and a free-standing pillar inside one; below this is another row of three overlapping circular facets and a second set of arcades with eight arches, again with a single pillar inside one; the lower portion is covered with five rows of circular facets, and immediately above the base is a single row of six larger facets; vessel repaired from sherds with modern infill, and abraded surfaces possibly resulting from the presumed removal of the usual weathering layer.
This vessel has been previously exhibited or described in the literature as a vase, phial, lamp or beaker. The honeycomb-like faceting at the top and bottom are characteristic features of Late Sasanian glassware. The schematic decoration beneath one of the arcades has been compared to the stylised representations of a fire altar on Sasanian glyptic, in which case it might represent a Zoroastrian equivalent of a series of Late Roman glass lamps decorated with engraved crosses and applied blue prunts. However, this superficial resemblance is more likely to be the fortuitous result of combining horizontal and vertical facets, and the same effect is found on Late Roman glass. Furthermore, its function as a lamp seems very unlikely as these are normally broader at the top in order to maximise the impact of the light thrown upwards, and there is no obvious manner of securely holding this vessel in a polycandelon or candelabrum. The shape suggests that it was simply intended as a beaker, and its capacity is comparable to that of Late Sasanian hemispherical bowls and stemmed goblets.
This vessel was purchased in 1962 from the dealer Saeed Motamed, when it was said to come from Iran. A large number of Sasanian glass vessels appeared on the Iranian art market from 1958 onwards. Most are said to derive from sites in the Daylaman area of Gilan province, in north-west Iran, although other "provenances" in Azerbaijan and Luristan have also been reported. Limited investigations by a Japanese archaeological expedition to Daylaman confirmed the existence of looted cemeteries of this, as well as earlier, periods and the occasional interment of glass vessels with the deceased. Among the glasswares said to come from this region are a great variety of shapes, sizes and styles of cut glass beakers, which resemble a group of imported vessels found in Scandinavia and dated there to the 4th and 5th centuries (Ekholm 1963). Fragmentary conical and broad round based beakers with heavily cut decoration are also represented among excavated finds from Veh Ardashir where they are dated to the c. 5th century (Negro Ponzi 1984). Fragmentary plain and pattern-moulded versions are also represented from excavated contexts. A c. 5th century date is therefore likely for this piece.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2006 14 Sept-30 Dec, Paris, Cernuschi Museum, 'Les Perses Sassanides ou les Fastes d'un empire oublié'
1995-2005 17 Nov-15 Dec, BM, G52/IRAN/26
1994 16 Jun-23 Dec, BM, G49/IRAN/26/18
1975-1990 Jul-Dec, BM, Iranian Room [IR], case 19/3
- Broken and repaired; missing fragments restored.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Deposited by S. Motamed on 1 August 1962 (WAA deposit book entry 1528)
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number