Ancient Greece, Hellenistic, ca. 3rd to 1st century BCE. A striking core-formed glass alabastron, so named because many vessels that assumed this form were made of alabaster. This piece is comprised of a very deep blue glass with white and yellow trailing combed into a feather or herring-bone pattern to adorn the walls, and an elegant spiral of white tracing the cylindrical neck and the flared flattened rim. The petite lug handles to each side are solid dark blue. A divine work of glass art to be treasured for its impeccable form, beautiful hues, and sophisticated technique. Size: 5.125" H (13 cm); 6.125" H (15.6 cm) on included custom stand.
The alabastron is a long-bodied vessel with a rounded bottom, a cylindrical neck, and a flat disk for a mouth. Though usually without handles, some alabastra have eyes or lugs, like this example. Acording to the Beazley Archive of the University of Oxford, the alabastron shape's history extends back to Corinth, but was only preserved in Athenian pottery examples back to the mid-sixth century BCE. Alabastra were created in many materials, including alabaster, and the Greek term for this stone - alabastron (most likely of Egyptian origin) - was the source of inspiration for the name of this shaped vessel. Many examples were finished with a white ground, as if to imitate this stone. We know from vase painting imagery of women using alabastra following a bath, that these vessels most likely held perfumed oils.
According to the Corning Museum of Glass, core forming is "the technique of forming a vessel by winding or gathering molten glass around a core supported by a rod. After forming, the object is removed from the rod and annealed. After annealing, the core is removed by scraping." (https://www.cmog.org/glass-dictionary/core-forming). This process of glass making was begun in the late 16th century BCE by glassmakers of Mesopotamia, and then adopted by Egyptian glassmakers in the 15th century BCE. The technique almost came to an end in the so-called Dark Ages of Mediterranean civilization (1200 to 900 BCE); however, by the 9th century BCE a new generation of glassmakers took up the technique once again, and between the 6th and 4th century BCE core-forming spread throughout the Mediterranean.
A Greek Hellenistic core-formed glass alabastron sold for 6,875 GBP (~$9467) at Christie's London - Antiquites 14 April 2011, Lot 153.
Provenance: ex-private Austin, Texas, USA collection, acquired in 1990s; ex-M. S. Rau. Inc Antiques, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; comes with appraisal document by Jerome M. Eisenberg dated September 23, 1993
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