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Lot 0020
Greece, late Hellenistic Period, ca. 2nd to 1st century BCE. A gorgeous example of a core-formed glass amphoriskos once used to hold perfumed oil. The vessel boasts an elegant piriform body with a conical base, a sloped shoulder that tapers to form the cylindrical neck, a flared rim with an upturned lip to mitigate spillage, and a pair of high-arching trail handles. Decorating the body are thin trails of yellow and light-blue glass which are feathered upward against the age-darkened seafoam-green glass body, with unfeathered yellow and light-blue trails wrapping around the neck and lower body, and a single yellow trail just beneath the rim. Brilliant areas of rainbow-hued iridescence nicely complement the variety of colors on this vessel and make it a wonderful example of late Hellenistic artistry! Size: 2.2" W x 5.3" H (5.6 cm x 13.5 cm); 5.9" H (15 cm) on included custom stand.

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.

For a stylistically-similar example with a spherical foot, please see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 74.51.323: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/239908

Another stylistically-similar example with a longer neck hammered for $13,750 at Christie's Special Exhibition Gallery Antiquities auction (sale 2490, December 7, 2011, lot 71): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/ancient-art-antiquities/an-eastern-mediterranean-core-formed-glass-amphoriskos-circa-5509107-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5509107&sid=1382ba03-81d1-4f75-8674-64bad2466fb6

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Martin J. Wunsch collection, New York, USA, acquired in the 1980s

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Repair to rim and handles with small chips and light adhesive residue along break lines. Light abrasions and pitting to body, neck, and rim, with light encrustations. Nice earthen deposits as well as great rainbow iridescence.

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Greek Hellenistic Core-Formed Glass Amphoriskos

Estimate $6,000 - $9,000May 22