Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection


Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on August 23, 2016


NFB 334 Roman double-bodied balsamariuml

5th – 6th century AD. Eastern Mediterranean, Syro-Palestinian area.

H total = 38.0 cm. H body = 12.8 cm. W max = 11.5 cm. Weight 378 gr.


Classification: Stern 2001: Class VI C 2.

Condition: Body with trail intact. Superstructure with few stress cracks and repaired breaks. Some overall surface wear, iridescence and incrustation.

Technique: Free blown and tooled. Handles and thread applied.

Description: Transparent natural bluish green glass. Body with double tube with hollow infolded rims. Solid flattened base without pontil mark. A thread of the same glass wound spirally around the body from bottom to rim in approximately 14 revolutions. On each side of body a coil handle applied 4 cm below the rim and attached with an angle to the rim edge. On top of the tubes an elaborate handle in 6 tiers. The first tier an m-shaped coil with additional reversed L-shaped coil at each side. The second tier with double looped coil applied from the right to the left. The third tier with triple looped coil applied from the left to the right. The fourth tier a single looped coil applied from the right to the left. The fifth tier a single looped coil applied from the left to the right. The top tier a basket handle applied from the right to the left. Excess glass from all coils drawn out thin and folded down on the coil below.

Remarks: This balsamarium belongs to the largest and most elaborate cosmetic tubes of its kind. Most probably it has never served as such since its complex superstructure makes it unusable for that purpose. A function to show craftsmanship and to display it as such is more likely. Balsamaria (also called kohl tube) were manufactured from the late third century until the seventh century AD. They functioned as container for black eye paint (kohl), which served both cosmetic and medicinal purposes, the latter by protecting the eyes against the sun and against insects. Balsamaria were made with one, two, three and four compartments. They were not designed for free standing and consequently needed handles for suspension. Through the ages Balsamaria became taller and heavier with more trails and coils and complicated superstructures.

Provenance: Private collection. Kando Gallery Jerusalem, 1982.

Published: Bonhams 7 July 2016, No. 66.,Christies 14 April 2011, No. 186.Christies 12 December 2002, No. 422.

References: Stern 2001, Ernesto Wolf Collection, Nos. 181-182. Christies 6 July 2016, Shlomo Moussaieff Collection, Nos. 293-296. Christies 22 April 2013, Saeed Motamed Collection, No. 20. Christies 28 April 2009, Plesch Collection, No.19.

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