ROMAN CAGE-CUP FRAGMENT
CAGE-CUP FRAGMENT of Nico F. Bijnsdorp
Early 4th century AD. Eastern Mediterranean, possibly Italy or Cologne.
H= 10.5 cm. L= 9.5 cm. Weight 78 gr.
Classification: Doppelfeld 1960: Group B4.
Condition: Small part broken off and glued. Internal crack and small hole restored.
Technique: Blown or cast. Wheel cut, ground and polished.
Description: Transparent colorless to yellowish amber glass.
The curve of the fragment indicates a diameter of the vessel of 13.5 cm, the straight wall
suggest more a beaker than a bowl. The curved, outsplayed rim rounded and polished.
Below the rim an openwork flange with an ovolo frieze containing fourteen egg-shaped
perforations (53 for the complete vessel) separated by darts. The body decorated with a
network cage, formed from circular meshes with a small cruciform motif at the junction of
each pair of meshes that conceals the post that connects the openwork cage with the
inner body. Concentric border above highest ring of (originally 15) meshes, where
additional posts are concealed under the V-shaped elements.
The manufacturing process of ancient cage cups was by cold-working of a thick-walled
blank by cutting and undercutting. That was a very slow and time consuming process
with risks of disaster throughout its manufacture. Consequently they were exorbitantly
expensive and were only owned by the very wealthiest of Roman society. The highly
specialized glasscutters (diatretarii) enjoyed high prestige and esteem. Only some ten
cage-cups are recorded in anything other than a fragmentary state and are all but one
part of museum collections.
This fragment was reportedly found in Turkey, Iskandaron Bay area.
Whitehouse 2015, CAGE CUPS, Late Roman Luxury Glasses, No. A-2.
In this book 65 fragments of cage cups are described, this one being the largest one and
the only one not belonging to a museum collection.