Translucent blown glass
Diam. 8 13/16 in. (20.8 cm); Diam. 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm); H. 1 5/8 in. (4.1 cm), Diam. 3 3/8 in. (8.6 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.194.72,.96,.167)
Cypriot; H. 1 7/16 in. (2.6 cm), Diam. 7 1/8 in. (18 cm)
Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1881 (81.10.32)
Glassblowing did not replace casting as the dominant method of glass manufacture until the second half of the first century A.D. By then, glassblowers had masterfully adapted the technique to the creation of luxury glass vessels as well as to the mass production of plain utilitarian wares. The simple elegance of the monochrome glass, combined with the smooth contours that result from glassblowing, generated a class of fine ware that could easily compete with its cast predecessors.
The free-blown green and purple dishes are fine examples of the blown glassware that in large part supplanted the cast-glass industry, although some tableware continued to be made using the casting method. Relatively few blown vessels as large as the purple dish have survived, and most are lidded storage jars that found secondary use as cinerary funeral urns. However, the glass plates, bowls, and vases that are depicted in numerous Pompeian wall paintings show that many large vessels were already being produced before the destruction of Pompeii in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
The colorless plate was also free-blown, with a ridged handle decoration made by tooling and crimping a trail of hot glass that had been applied to the outer edges of the rim. The bulge at the bottom of the plate is the remnant of the glob of glass that held the plate onto the pontil rod while the glassblower finished the vessel. The small colorless bowl was made in a similar manner: the glassblower inflated a gather of hot, unformed glass, and then cracked the inflated bulb, called a paraison, off the blowpipe to attach it to a pontil rod so that he could finish the rim.