Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection


Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on December 15, 2018

“AJAX” AMPHORISKOS of Nico F. Bijnsdorp





Mid first century AD. Sidonian or Italian.
H = 8.3 cm. D max = 4.1 cm. D rim = 1.7 cm. D base = 2.5 cm. Weight 42 gr.

Condition: Body intact. Relief more crisp than parallels. Chip to rim, where rests of one aquamarine handle remained. Some weathering.
Technique: Blown in mold with two vertical sections (MCT VIII A). One continuous mold seam around body and base extends onto neck.
Description: Opaque white glass with aquamarine handles (now missing). Everted rim, possibly rounded in flame. Short cylindrical neck on rounded shoulder. Strait walled body, tapering towards the flat base without pontil mark. The body decorated in relief with two scenes: (a) a ship with a high prow and stern, with a single central mast, with sail drawn up to top spar to reveal the rigging descending from the top spar to the hull from which six oars are at rest. In the stern to the right the diminutive figure of a helmsman. In the prow, to the left, a larger figure wearing a helmet and holding a shield. To his left leg a diagonal inscription in Greek, retrograde from bottom to top, reading “AIAC” (= AJAX). Below the ship waves and a fish. (b) Under an olive tree with oval leaves and a wineskin suspended from a branch, a man is sitting on a rock, facing to the right and wearing an animal’s skin or cloak over his shoulder and back. He is stabbing or withdrawing a weapon from an animal, probably a sheep, in front of him.
Remarks: “Ajax” amphoriskoi are extremely rare. Only eight other examples are known in publications. Six of these are in museums and two are in private collections. The relief of this amphoriskos is in comparison to its parallels extremely crisp. The aquamarine color of the (missing) handles is unique. Glasses of this type also belong to a different group of vessels, attributed to the “Workshop of the Floating Handles”, whereby the handle was first attached to the rim and then drawn downwards but not attached to the body. The scenes on this amphoriskos represent two episodes from the mythological story of Ajax, son of Telamon, king of Salamis. On side (a) he is shown leading his island’s contingent of twelve ships that sailed to Troy. After the dead of Achilles, who’s body was rescued from the battlefield by Ajax, the latter went mad after being refused the former’s weapons as his share in the spoils in favor of Odysseus. As a revenge he killed the animals that the Greek had captured from the Trojans. Realizing next day the consequences of what he had done, he committed suicide. Side (b) of the amphoriskos shows the scene of Ajax killing one of the animals.
Provenance: Ex collection Ronald David Bussey, London, 1968
Published: Bonhams, 29 April 2009, No. 97.
Romeins Glas uit particulier bezit, J. v.d. Groen & H. van Rossum 2011, p. 69.
Exhibited: Thermenmuseum Heerlen (NL), Romeins Glas, geleend uit particulier bezit,
29 April – 28 August 2011.
Reference: Whitehouse 2001, Corning Museum, No. 523., Sotheby’s 4/5 June 1979, The Constable-Maxwell Collection, No. 90., Pellatti 1998, Murano Museum, No. 70.
Özet 2000, Bodrum Museum, No. 2.17.91., Matheson 1980, Yale Art Gallery, No. 127.
Israeli 2011, The Shlomo Moussaieff Collection, p. 80.

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