Roman Vase

The most famous Roman cut glass vessel is a vase made at Alexandria between AD 5 and AD 25. The blue glass was gathered on the end of a blowpipe and shaped into a cylinder. It was dipped into a pot and the lower part covered with hot white glass. This was blown into a bubble, to produce a layered blank for the Vase; blue on the inside and white on the outside. The white glass was engraved with diamond, the hardest natural substance used by the Romans to cut gemstones to produce a cameo effect. Excavated near Rome in the pontificate of Urban VIII (1623-44) it was placed in the palace of the Barberini family. Sold c.1782 it passed through several hands until acquired by England’s Duke of Portland who gave it to the British Museum on permanent loan in 1810. In 1845 a visitor dashed it to the floor. Modern technology has aided its complete restoration.

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