Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection


Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on November 29, 2017

SMALL ONE HANDLED BARREL JUG of  The Windmill Collection of Roman Glass


Date: 2nd – 3rd Century AD,  Gaul or Rhineland  Size: H  8.6 cm.  D  4.2 cm

Classification: Isings (1957) form 89, Morin-Jean, form 132, Kisa, form 268,Goethert-Polaschek form 121

Provenance: Private collection Cologne (Germany)

Description:  Greenish, almost colorless, transparent little jug. Cylindrical body divided in three parts, shaped and decorated as a barrel with four continuous horizontal ribs above as well as below. The plain middle section slightly convex. Blown in a two-part mold, nearly flat bottom, no inscription. Free-blown cylindrical neck with rim folded out, round and in, flattened. From shoulder vertically drawn up a delicate flat strap handle (in same color as body) turned in horizontally and then with a loop attached to the rim.

Condition: Completely intact, numerous pinprick bubbles (at one side also two larger glass bubbles). Faint silver and yellow/purple iridescence.

Remarks: Barrel jugs (also called FRONTINUS bottle) as a separate variant on cylindrical bottles are typical for a production in North-West Gaul and the Rhineland, but they are also occasionally found in tombs in the Anglo-Saxon area, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

According to the Roman historian Pliny (23-79 AD) barrel jugs were a specialty of the peoples in the Northern part of the Roman Empire. These wooden vessels probably served for the storage of wine. Another writer (Strabo 19 BC- 19 AD) also pointed out that the Gauls were skillful in making wooden barrels and that reliefs of sculpture from Gaul witnesses of everyday use. Duval suggests that the shape of the bottles may be inspired by the Gallo-Roman God Succellus. This was (even thought in the Celtic times) the God of the agriculture and alcoholic drinks such as wine and beer. The God was depicted with a large hammer (like a wooden barrel) and in the other hand a kind of barrel (olla).

The first glass specimens have been found from the end of the 1st /early 2nd century AD (Isings), the production runs through until the 4th century. Typical are the ridges or grooves on the body, almost always in an equal number of both above and below. In between ian obvious bulging, thus suggesting a keg of which the staves are held together by hoops.  The number of grooves or ribs varies depending on the size of the bottle. The smallest have twice four, the largest seven above and below. Most found jugs (as between 17 and 21 cm high) have five or six. As always there are exceptions: in the collection of the Römisch-Germanisches Museum in Cologne is a small jug (12.6 cm) with four grooves above and six below.

In Isings type 89 globally two groups are differentiated: a. blue-green glass, two handles, larger dimension, usually bottom brand, dating 2nd-4th century AD and b.  virtually colorless glass, one handle, small size, usually no bottom brand, early 3rd-4th century AD (Sennequier). Yet this distinction is not entirely decisive, because at some finds there are also variants in terms of color and dating within these two groups founds. For example, some minor barrel jugs have been found in a 2nd century context. There also is a variant (Rhineland) with a separate extra decoration on the belly (tiny balls or grain of sand)

Capacity: Roman measures of the most common bottles and the conversion liters:

1.5 cyathii                                                           0.068 liter (like the above jug from the Windmill collection) varying in height from 8.2 -11.5 cm

0.5 sextarii (6 cyathii)                                     0.27 liter

1.5 sextarii                                                          0.8 liter

2.0 sextarii                                                          1.078 liter

3.0 sextarii                                                          1,62 liter

4.0 sextarii                                                          2.25 liter (rare)


Sennequier: further notes that possibly not only the size determines the use. Maybe they were commercially designed, so the form could exclusively be linked to one particular drink.  As today for example Coca-Cola in its characteristic form.

Most barrel jugs have a brand name at the bottom. It is not entirely sure if this is the name of a glassblower or maybe the owner of the workshop or the merchant.  By the excavations in the 19th century (Abbé Cochet) in Normandy (France) initially was supposed that the center of manufacturing lay in the Forest d’Eu (Seine-Maritime), other scientists also included Boulogne, Beauvais, Gallia Belgica and Cologne as possible workshops where this form would have been produced. Some assume that in North-West Gaul was a kind of headquarters, with branches in the far area. The owner then makes use of its own or glassblower (derived) brand. There would thus be no question of a monopoly position.

In connection with the frequent occurrence of the name FRONTINUS barrel jugs also are referred to with the general name FRONTINUS. There are many variants on FRONTINUS known as FRO, FRON, FRONTI FROTI and others, these are mainly found in France. There are also other marks such as Q CASUS NOCTURNUS, FELIX (FE) and PROMETHEUS. The brand EQVA (with variants) occurs in the area around Cologne, such as Hambach Forst and was not found in France. The production in the Rhineland seems to be of a slighter later date as in Gaul, as shown by the museums of Bonn, Cologne, Duisburg, Worms, Speyer, Trier and Mainz.

As said before small bottles with one handle usually have no bottom brand. The first little ones with an brand have a size from about (11.5 cm high). Sennequier points out that this type is rarely found.

It is assumed that the content of barrel jugs was wine but this is absolutely not sure. The fragility of the glass close reuse virtually out. The glass is generally good, sometimes lumps and impurities in the surface The bottles found in Haute-Normandie (blue-green), often with only one handle, can be dated from 1st century end to end 3rd century and are of good quality. They are replaced by bottles (3rd-4th century) with two handles, these have a slightly different chemical composition and are of significantly lower quality (Sennequier ). Because most bottles were found in graves the use of them have been associated with burial rituals. The vast majority is found in women graves, the really small ones sometimes in a children’s grave as for example in Poitiers (France) where a little barrel jug (7.5 cm high) was placed in a stone sarcophagus (mid 2nd century AD) to the left of the head.


Römisch-Germanisches Museum Cologne;  Musée Carnavalet  Paris (8.9 cm); Metropolitan Museum New York (11.6 cm); Staatliche Kunstsammlung Kassel (10.8cm); Musée Départemental de Seine-Maritime (8.2 cm); Verres Antiques et de l’Islam, Demeulenaere collection (8.8cm).


Pictures made by Aad van den Born

One Response

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  1. Hans van Rossum said, on November 29, 2017 at 8:08 am

    Unbelievable!! You never see this kind of small Barrel Jug. You must be very lucky!

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