Period: Late Imperial
Date: 3rd–4th century A.D.
Medium: Glass; blown and cut
Dimensions: H.: 5 7/8 in. (15 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number: 17.194.317
This colorless glass bottle was free-blown and then cut in an intricate symmetrical pattern of interlocking circles and horizontal lines, creating a stunning visual effect. The skill required to achieve such virtuosity of symmetry and design is all the more impressive when one remembers that the Roman glass cutter had little other than his own strength and a simple hand drill with which to work; he did not have any of the powered precision-cutting machines that modern engravers use.
This bottle also visibly illustrates the simple elegance that the Romans could achieve by engraving colorless or naturally colored glass. Vessels such as this were used at dinner and drinking parties and would probably have been filled with a deep red wine. The bright color of the contents would have further enhanced the engraved design, while light reflecting off the cut glass would have added sparkle to the wine, creating a truly elegant effect.