Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection


Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on January 7, 2019


From The Windmill Collection of Roman Glass


Hellenistic cast glass Kantharos


Date: Late 3rd – mid 2nd century B.C. , region around the Black Sea (the Crimea) or Italy  Size: H = 8.3 cm D = 9.7 cm (rim),  15.5  cm (incl.handles)

Provenance: Collection David Giles London (UK), ex coll. S. Antonoshkin (Germany)

Description: This drinking cup (assembled from multiple pieces) is constructed of light-opaque to transparent virtually colorless thick glass with a greenish-gray tint. The oval almost egg-shaped body is cast in a mold, simultaneously with the grips and the conically tapered foot. The integral handles have flat, concave sided thumb rests, horizontally aligned with the rim of the kantharos. On the vessel’s tooling, the orifices  in the handles, their further  details  and feet were finished by chiseling. Subsequently the cup was  ground and polished on a lathe (N.F. Bijnsdorp 2010).  The drinking cup is designed to be held with the thumb, forefinger and middle finger.

Remarks: The word ‘ kantharos ‘ is probably derived from the ancient Greek word for ‘ beetle ‘, an indication for the edited handles. This type of glass is, as with many other forms of the time, an imitation of metal i.e. gold, silver and bronze cups. Early Kantharoi from the Hellenistic period are not numerous. They distinguish themselves from the so-called Skyphoi as type that normally have a less oval body and a lower foot. Furthermore, in publications and also some descriptions in museums both terms are used interchangeably.

The period is designated as ‘ Hellenistic ‘ overall from 330 to 50 B.C. at the beginning of the Roman Empire. After the death of Alexander the Great in the year 323 emerged led by Macedonian Greek generals various Hellenistic kingdoms.

The second half of the third century B.C. (with a passage on to the second century) creates a separate Hellenistic glass-style. This first group is best represented by important and documented finds in the Hellenistic colony Canosa di Puglia, on the Adriatic coast in South East Italy. In various tombs in Canosa (Canusium) is cast monochrome glassware found, that can be considered as the first joint effort of glass makers in ancient times to almost complete dinner sets to manufacture, both before serving of food or drinking from cups. Just as before in Achaemenid Persia is here only a production of luxury items, what is underlined by the extraordinary design, elegance, quality and overall accuracy of the manufacturing process. Virtually all glasses are discolored on purpose in an effort to achieve transparency, but often this resulted in a yellowish-green tint. Only in rare cases (such as the example in The British Museum) a blue cup was made (Grose 1989).

It has long been believed that these types would be manufactured in Alexandria (Egypt). Multiple finds of colorless glass (in addition to Canosa di Puglia, Etruria, Naxos and Morgantina in Sicily and Reggio di Calabria) point out, however, that not only South Italy (Magna Graecia) can be classified as possible production location, but also the Mediterranean area and around the Black Sea (the Crimea).

This kantharos belongs to the main monochrome forms of the so-called Canosa-group.

References: An identical cup is in the British Museum in London ( 1871.0518.9), dated 200 – 225 BC.), coming from a tomb in Canosa di Puglia, Italy. Found in 1871 together with 8 other glass from the period 275 – 200 BC. Shown in Masterpieces of Glass, The British Museum (d. Harden 1968 No. 37) Antikes Glas (f. Neuberg 1962   nr. 82) and mentioned in Ancient Glass (D. Harden 1971).

Also in the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is a virtually identical drinking cup (1997, Kunina. 59, height 9.6 cm, diameter 9.4 cm edge, the slim high foot less tight). This kantharos was found in 1990 in Akhtanizovskaya, in the Krasnodar region. In the same Hermitage collection are 3 more (including a light blue) kantharoi, all significantly later, from the 1st century AD.

Another example from the 2nd century B.C.(height 8.1 cm, diameter 15.7 cm) in Ancient Glass (Charles Ede Ltd London 2006, no.6), formerly in the Brailovski collection and reputedly found in the Crimea.

A special kantharos from the 1st century BC belongs to the collection of the Corning Museum NY ( 70.1.29), up to 1908 in the collection of A.Vogell (Germany). This cup measures 9.6 cm high, diameter edge 8.2 cm (14.0 cm incl. handles), the color is transparent deep-blue. → Glass of the Caesars (Harden 1987, no. 14).

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