- Eastern Mediterranean
- 3rd - 1st century B.C.
- H-14 D-13.2
Trade with remote places, including both human traffic and exchanges in industrial arts increased after the eastern expedition of Alexander, the Great. In particular, glass craftsmen created their own methods using a variety of traditional methods gathered from a wide area and made beautiful utensils and vessels for daily use and cosmetic containers and so on.
It is thought that this small, long-necked jar was made by applying the cast and cut method, which had been known in Western Asia since the early 1st millennium B.C. In this ancient method, glass was cast into the shape of solid vessel, and then a hole was hollowed out inside the body to make a container, using the same method used with stone vessels. Judging from the state of the connection of the long slender neck to the wide bead-shaped body underneath, this small vessel might have been cast in its mold with a core inside, and then wheel-trimmed. Made of blue opaque glass, this bottle has a beautiful raised ridge wheel design on the outside the body. Nearly all of the surface of the bottle is covered with milky-white layers caused by weathering while the bottle was buried.
Because of elements of workmanship seen on this bottle, including the flap at the mouth, simple decoration on the upper part and at the bottom of the neck and also because of the overall shape of the piece, it is believed to have come from the eastern Mediterranean region. In the middle of the shoulder of the body, a small rectangular hole of 3mm x 4mm has been bored, which may have been used for linking a handle from the hole to the middle of the neck. (fig. 1) A similar example of a glass amphora found near Olbia along the Black Sea Coast bears a design which resembles the design on the neck and shoulder of this bottle, and also features a glass handle made separately and attached to the vessel with a gilt-bronze fitting.＊1 Considering that this bottle probably had a handle which is now lost, it can be considered to be an example of a typen of bottle with broad shoulders called "λαγυνο (lagynos)", and used widely in the Hellenic world after production of the Attic type of vessel declined.
There are some unearthed examples of ceramics with handles fitted vertically to their bodies,＊2 and a rather later example of a glass jar with the same form has been reproduced and now is in the Corning Glass Museum.＊3
Eastern Mediterranean, 200-100 B.C.
Opaque medium blue glass. Cast in a multi-part mold or lost wax technique; lathe-cut and polished, drilled and cut to receive a metal handle, now missing.
Intact; large areas covered by a creamy brown weathering crust flaking away to reveal patches of brilliant iridescence.
Height 14cm, Body diam. 13.2cm, wall thickness 0.3cm
Technique and Description
The method by which this vessel was cast remains unclear. It has a sizeable interior cavity confirmed by probing the cutting made to receive the handle1). Although the interior surface of the neck is lathe-cut, it seems unlikely that the body cavity would have been ground and polished from a solid blank. An interior core could have been used but no evidence of such material remains. No evidence of partial inflation is indicated by any elongated bubble patterns in the neck. The neck is centered on the body, there is some slight unevenness in the profile of the body itself. The centering point for the lathe-cutting is slightly off axis. Unlike the two other examples of glass lagynoi known, the Miho lagynos is cast in one piece. The two examples in Corning both have separate base discs which would have been cast separately and attached to the base ring with an adhesive such as pitch or bitumen. Both Oliver and Harden have commented on the interior surfaces of the two Corning lagynoi and their casting technique in two pieces2). The Miho vessel has a very different profile than lagynoi in both glass and ceramic. There is a sharp line at the greatest diameter of the body where the shoulder curves down from the neck and the lower segment of the body curves up to meet it from the base. In many areas, the thick creamy weathering product has broken away from this line to highlight the edge. Could it be that this vessel was cast in two halves, joined and reheated then polished so that no trace of the seam is left?
Following the initial formation by casting, the overall surface has been lathe-cut and polished to a satin finish. The quality and precision of cutting and the elaborate profiles have no parallels among the glass of this period. The wide flared rim has a concave profile on its outer edge as does the upper surface of the lip. Between the rim and the central horizontal collar as well as the collar and shoulder, the neck is lathe-cut, gently tapering in and spreading out to form an extraordinary profile above and below the central band. The collar consists of three parts, a bold central convex band with a more delicate ring above and below. The profile of the larger central band is carinated much like the body of the lagynos itself. Where the neck spreads out into the shoulder, a series of three elements are lathe-cut and create an elaborate transition. In a more flat profile, they reflect the bold three-part collar on the neck. The diameter of the rim (5.3 cm) and the diameter of the lathe-cut band at the base of the neck are the same. The body of the vessel sits on a tripartite element, a concave profiled band with a flat faced ring above and below. This unit sits on the substantial outward curving foot which is hollow on the underside and centered with a lathe-cut groove and sunken dot.
The rectangular hole cut in the shoulder for the handle is 9.5mm by 5mm. There are two areas which seem to be purposely drilled or cut out along each of the long sides of the rectangle. From the one edge of the rectangular hole to the center of the larger irregular cutting on the opposite side is 5.6mm. The distance from the outside edge of one irregular hole to the other is 7mm. There appears to be a few chips on the short side of the rectangular hole farthest from the neck and a small irregular cutting at the right corner nearest the neck. The irregularity may have had to do with the way in which the metal handle was secured to the vessel. There are no wear marks or scratches on the neck indicating where the handle may have been attached. The chips may indicate damage when the handle was removed, especially if it was gilt bronze or silver.
There are numerous Greek and Hellenistic vessel shapes which are well known in ceramics, copied in metal and sometimes preserved in glass. There are discussions as to whether the metal forms predate the ceramic or the other way around. The Hellenistic lagynos or one handled jug appears to be an unusual ceramic form made at the end of the 3rd century B.C.3) It gains popularity after the middle of the 2nd to the 1st century B.C. but is seldom represented in metal or glass variations so far as we currently know. In fact, there are only three such examples, two in The Corning Museum of Glass4) and the smaller opaque blue example published here.
The Miho lagynos is by far the most elegant and carefully profiled example of the three lagynoi known. It may well be the most sharply profiled object which relates to the group of cast and cut glasses known as Canosa-type and named after the wealthy graves in Southern Italy mentioned above by von Saldern. He suggests, and rightly so, that glassmakers in this region "owe their forms, their technology and partly their decorative motifs to Iranian (Achaemenid) prototypes…5)."
Cast and lathe-cut glass from tombs at Canosa present a rich corpus of hemispherical and finned bowls, footed bowls, skyphoi, amphorae and plates. There are five major hoards and various related objects which have been most recently documented and discussed by Marianne Stern in her publication of one of these hoards, now in Stuttgart and formerly in the Wolf Collection6). The closest parallel for the lathe-cutting on the Miho lagynos is the unique amphora from Olbia in the Black Sea region, now in the Antikenmuseum, Berlin7). The collar around the neck of this amphora has a related design and is cut at a similar height on the neck. The cutting however, is neither as precise nor as subtle. The profile of the lip and that of the foot are not so sharp and well-delineated as the Miho lagynos. The lathe-cut grooves on the shoulder of the Berlin amphora are much closer to the bands cut on the many footed bowls thought to be from the region of Canosa. Does the quality of cutting and finishing suggest that the Miho lagynos is the earliest example of this group or does it's sophistication move it to the culmination of this series and closer to 100 B.C.; it is difficult to determine at this point. Only a few Hellenistic glass vessels are constructed of multiple pieces and fastened with metal fittings such as the Berlin amphora. There is a two-piece amphoriskos of mosaic glass in the Corning Museum. It was pinned together at the rim with metal brads and probably had metal handles attached at the shoulder and neck8). The use of separate handles and the multiple part body suggest a relation of this object to the amphora and the lagynos. Did the glassmaker fuse the two pieces of the lagynos together and find this task so daunting that it was not attempted again? Does the technology relate to the fusion of goldglass bowls made during this same period, even though they were larger and more difficult to fabricate. The lagynos poses several questions about manufacture and date. For now, it remains one of the most extraordinary cast and cut vessels from this Hellenistic period. Further study is needed.
Dr. Sidney Merrill Goldstein
1. Miho Museum, The 1st Anniversary Exhibition, 1998, pp.34-5, no. 11, fig. 1 is a view of the cutting for the handle of this vessel
2. Harden 1987, p.37, no.13; Oliver 1972, pp.17-8, figs.2,4-5; see also Goldstein 1979, pp.136-7, nos.280-1; and the most recent discussion of fabrication, Painter and Whitehouse 1990, pp.120-1, fig.88
3. J. Oliver 1972, pp.20-1 for a discussion of the excavated examples of ceramic lagynoi; Gunneweg et al, The Provenience, Typology and Chronology of Eastern Terra Sigallata, Jerusalem, 1983; N. Avigad, " Excavations in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, 1970", Israel Exploration Journal, 20, 1970, p. 140, Pl.33.B; G. Leroux, Lagynos, Recherches sur la ce'ramique et l'art ornemental Helle'nistique, Paris, 1913
4. See n.2 above
5. Supra p.215
6. E.M. Stern and B. Schlick-Nolte, Early Glass of the Ancient World 1600 B.C.-A.D. 50 Ernesto Wolf Collection, Ostfildern, 1994, pp.97-115, cat. Nos. 63-72
7. D.B. Harden, "A Hellenistic Footed Glass Bowl of Alexandrian Workmanship", Museum News The Toledo Museum of Art, 22, no.2, 1980 p.19, fig.7; G. Platz-Horster, Antike Gl?ser, exhibition catalogue, Antikenmuseum, Berlin, 1976, pp.16ff, no.16; A. Griefenhagen, "Ancient Glass in the Berlin-West Museum", Journal of Glass Studies IV, 1962, pp.1-2, no.1 here and previous reference for bibliography
8. Goldstein 1979, pp.176-7, pls.21,40
3rd‐1st century B.C.
H. 14.0 cm, Dia. 13.2 cm
As Alexander conquered lands to the east, long distance trade and the exchange of people and decorative arts activities increased. Amongst this pattern of movement, the glass craftsmen of the day took their traditional techniques to a wide area, where they created beautiful items for everyday use such as serving dishes and cosmetic containers. This small jar with a long neck is thought to have been made using the glass casting and carving techniques which had been developed in Assyria, Persia and west Asia. This ancient technique involved casting a solid glass vessel, and then shaving out the interior of the vessel. This technique is in that aspect the same as that used on vessels carved out of stone. In this case, judging from how the long, thin neck is joined to the wide bulging body of the vessel, we can imagine that it was cast with some form of wick, and then placed on a turn wheel and its form regularized. The blue translucent glace contains a large amount of lead, and beautiful ridges stand out from the walls of the vessel. Long years buried underground created the milky white surface.
The folded back mouth rim seen on this vase, the bands decorating the neck just above the mid-point, and at the point of attachment between neck and body, and the overall shape of the work all suggest that it was made in the eastern Mediterranean. A 3 x 4 mm rectangular hole has been cut in the middle of the vessel's shoulder, and we can imagine that a handle connecting the neck and shoulder of the vessel would have been attached here. Similar examples include a glass amphora from Olbia on the coast of the Black Sea, which has bands circling its neck and shoulder that resemble those found here. The Olbia amphora has a separately formed glass handle attached to the vessel body by gilt bronze fittings. The handle for this vessel has now been lost, but if we consider this vessel in its original handled form, we can see how it is a type of a lagynos type, a vessel form with swelling shoulders which spread throughout the Hellenistic world after the decline of the Attica vessel types. Excavated ceramic versions of the lagynos vessel type show that the handle rose perpendicularly from the vessel body, and a slightly different example of this form carefully reproduced in glass can be found in the Corning Glass Museum.