Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection


Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on December 15, 2017

THREE ROMAN BALSAMARIA or UNGUENTARIA of the The Augustinus Collection of Ancient Glass


Mid first to early 2nd. century A.D. Isings form: 8/27


↑ 10.1/10.3/10.0 cm | Ø body: 2.25/2.39/2.49cm |


Ø Mouth : 2.05/2.3/2.5 cm | Weight: 2.2/2.6/2.0 g  |

Technique: Freely blown, two dark blue, one amber colored.

Description: Bottle, tubular body, two-thirds of total height. Rim everted, then folded up and in; neck cylindrical; long body that splays gradually, then curves into rounded base, traces of the pontil mark with all three examples.

Condition: Intact, complete, one repaired at the neck; extensively pitted, with remains of silver iridescence in pits.

Remarks: These so-called toilet-bottles carry many different names as: unguentarium, balsamarium, test tube, ampoule, tubular, file, ‘doigt de giant’ (giants finger), ‘ampoules lacrymatoires’(tear bottles) and more, but they were no tear-bottles, test-tubes, or giants fingers. In reality they origin from Augustian times on and last until the fourth century, being used as small containers to carry precious perfumes to the bathhouse and, alas, to the graveyard or the field where the combustion of the deceased took place, in order to drive away the smell of burning flesh, as many distorted or melted examples testify from several excavations ever since the 19th. century. * Link to a melted example in the collection of Hans van Rossum


Houben, 1839, pl XV.

Cochet, 1854, p57, gr.1, p 116.

Kisa, 1908,  vol 3, Formentafel A, no 3.

Morin-Jean, 1913, forme 20, 21, ampoule lacrymatoire en jaune ou blue vif.

Isings, 1957, form 27, variation of form 8. Test tube unguentarium.

Calvi, 1968,  gruppo E.γ Balsemari; Tubolari tipo E α. (cat. 42).

Goethert-Polaschek, 1977, Form 66a.

Sennequier, 1985, Fiole Tubulaire, 149, pp 99-100. ‘Doigt de Geant’.

Höricht, 1986, Forma: 47a, 47d, pp 61-62, nos 184-200, Tav. XXXV, 788.

Whitehouse, 2001, CMG, vol I, p 137, Toilet Bottle no: 224, 226.


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