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Lot 0010B
Ancient Greece, Classical Period, ca. 6th to 5th century BCE. A beautiful example of a core-formed glass amphoriskos once used to hold scented oils. The near-miniature vase boasts an elegant form with an ovoid body that is finely contoured with vertical ribs, twin handles that gracefully join the shoulder to the cylindrical neck, and an everted discoid rim, all upon a slightly splayed foot. The decoration of this piece is simply gorgeous, with the cobalt blue body wound with azure and golden yellow thread-like trails applied in a close-knit feathered pattern. The golden trails continue above the feathering and encircle the neck, and an azure thread encompasses the outside of the rim. An amazing example of glass-working replete with outstanding form, lustrous sheen, and fabulous hues. Size: 1.375" W x 2.125" H (3.5 cm x 5.4 cm).

A vessel like this would have been made for the elites of ancient society. Its owner would have used a stopper to keep the contents inside, and a glass rod to dip into the vessel's perfumed oils and dab on the throat or wrists. The little handles made it possible to suspend the vessel, and we know from Athenian vase paintings that vessels like these could be worn off a belt at the waist or suspended from the wrist.

The Greeks created core-formed or sandcore vessels by trailing threads of molten glass over a "core" of sand or clay to form the vessel. These threads were oftentimes feathered or dragged to create intriguing decorative patterns. The term amphoriskos literally means "little amphora" and is indeed a miniature amphora. This shape was quite popular as it was ideal to store precious oils, perfumes, or cosmetics.

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 slightly-larger yet stylistically-similar example hammered for $9,375 at Christie's, New York Antiquities Auction (sale 2007, June 4, 2008, lot 99): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/ancient-art-antiquities/an-eastern-mediterranean-core-formed-glass-amphoriskos-circa-5078834-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5078834&sid=91effa90-0014-4d2a-b9de-4e1a3a697fe2

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Richard Wagner collection, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, acquired in the 1970s

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Surface wear and abrasions commensurate with age, small pitting holes across exterior, and some fading to coloration, otherwise intact and near-choice. Light earthen deposits throughout.

Buyer's Premium

  • 24.5%

Stunning Greek Core-Formed Glass Amphoriskos

Estimate $7,000 - $9,000Oct 11, 2018