Glass bowl

Period: Late Imperial

Date: 3rd–4th century A.D.

Culture: Roman

Medium: Glass; blown and cut

Dimensions: H. 1 in. (2.5 cm)
diameter 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm)

Classification: Glass

Credit Line: Gift of Henry G. Marquand, 1881

Accession Number: 81.10.46


The tradition of decorating colorless or naturally colored glass vessels with an intricate pattern of cut facets developed in the Flavian period (70–98 A.D.), but continued into late Roman times. This small, shallow dish is said to have been found at Cologne, a well-known center of glass production, and it belongs to a type of luxury tableware that had a wide distribution throughout the Roman empire. Pliny the Elder, writing in the 60s A.D., spoke of the contemporary taste for this style when he wrote that the most highly prized form of glassware was clear and as similar to rock crystal as possible. Rock crystal is a natural stone often used in ancient jewelry (17.194.332,.334,.344,.336; 74.51.4244), but because of the time and skill required to fashion larger objects from it, plates and bowls and other vessels in rock crystal were considered luxury items, especially in the Hellenistic age. Indeed, this style of Roman vessel may have been regarded in the same way as modern crystal glasswares– as presentation and display objects for use only on special occasions.