Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection


Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on April 30, 2020


Date: Late – 1st century – mid 2nd century AD | Eastern Mediterranean, Palestine area – Cyprus Size: ↑3.6 – 3.9 cm | ø 20.5 cm | Weight 154 g


Technique: Free blown, coil-handles applied

Classification: Calvi 1968: p. 94, no. 239 | Isings: 1957: form 43 | Vessberg  1952: Type Pl. I no. 16

Condition: Intact, colorful spots of iridescence, some slightly weathering

Description: Colorless – pale light green glass dish with a hollow tubular folded rim and shallow convex sides, on a base pushed in to form a hollow tubular base ring. Concave base with rest of pontil. On opposing sides of the rim two ribbed coils of 9.0 cm each are applied, imitating handles.

Remarks: Dishes with ribbed coils as handles are probably derived from terra sigilata table wares and appear to have been common in glass as well from the middle 1st to 2nd century in Cyprus and (the north of) Italy. On the rim the number 5602 painted in white and the code C.G. 746 painted in red.  Number 5602 is the original inventory number of the Cesnola Collection by Myres, C.G. 746 is the abbreviation which represents Cesnola Glass and numbered 746.

This dish was part of the collection of Luigi Palma di Cesnola (1832 – 1904), the first American consul on Cyprus. Born in Rivarolo Canavese, in the Piedmont region of Italy, in 1832, he became an officer of the kingdom of Savoy and, after brief service in the Crimean War, immigrated to America in the late 1850s. In 1862 he volunteered for a New York cavalry regiment and served in the Civil War until 1864, including ten months in a Confederate prison. After being discharged, in both New York and   Washington he applied his considerable energy, initiative, and skills at self-promotion to obtain the position of American consul on Cyprus. Cesnola established himself in Larnaca, which was then Cyprus’s most cosmopolitan town, where foreign consuls, bankers, and businessmen resided. His social contacts with foreign residents of Larnaca who had already developed an interest in archaeological activities persuaded him to follow their example. Cesnola did not have any formal education as a historian or classical scholar that might have helped him to interpret and to publish the results of his discoveries, but he had easy access to experts in distinguished museums in Europe, such as the British Museum, London, and the Antiquarium, Berlin.

The final destination of the Cesnola Collection was for a long time uncertain. In 1870, negotiations were held first with Napoleon III of France, who wished to acquire the entire collection for the Musée du Louvre in Paris, then with Russian officials for their possible transfer to the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. Faced in 1871 with a ban on the export of antiquities from Cyprus, Cesnola succeeded in having the major pieces in his collection shipped to England, by mid-January 1872, where its exhibition aroused considerable public interest. This year should also be a pivotal one for Cesnola’s collection and his relation to the Metropolitan Museum of  Art in New York. In December, John Taylor Johnston, president of the Metropolitan Museum, and fellow trustees approved the purchase. The collection reached New York in 275 crates, some nearly nine feet long, and in February 1873 Cesnola was allocated a salary of $ 500 per month and an appropriation of $ 10,000 for the repair and installation of the Cypriot finds. They went on public view a month later. Cesnola returned to Cyprus at the end of the year with a contract from the Museum to pursue his excavations, which he did until 1876. In 1877 he returned to New York and very quickly was appointed secretary of the Metropolitan Museum. In 1879 he became the first director, a position that he held until his death in 1904. During his years of seeking a buyer for his finds, Cesnola enlisted the services of the firm Rollin & Feuardent, well-known art dealers in Paris. In August 1880, Gaston Feuardent launched a fierce attack on the restorations and alterations to which objects in the  Cesnola Collection had been subjected; he targeted one limestone figure in particular. The controversy escalated into a court trial that ended in early 1884 with a vindication of Cesnola.

Even before this episode, Cesnola was aware that he had an obligation if not to vindicate then at least to explain his archaeological activities and discoveries. His Cyprus: Its Ancient Cities, Tombs, and Temples provides a dramatic and anecdotal account of his activities on the island. His most important publications, however, is the catalogue of his collection (or the majority of it), published in Boston and New York between 1885 and 1903 in three large volumes (with text and plates in each volume).

Entitled: A Descriptive Atlas of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriote Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, it remains a basic tool and source of                                            information for students of Cypriot art.

In 1914 the British archaeologist J.L. Myres published a scholarly catalogue of the Cesnola Collection, based on a more accurate typology and chronology of the objects, but with only a few small-scale illustrations. This catalogue, entitled Handbook of the Cesnola Collection of Antiquities from Cyprus (New York, 1914), provides a conspectus of all of the pieces now in the Cesnola Collection. Myres may be considered the first credible scholar of Cypriot archaeology. His Handbook remained for many years a fundamental work in the study of Cypriot art, though its commentary is too     summary or outdated to be particularly useful today.

In 1928 a large portion of the Cesnola Collection was auctioned by the Museum and scattered among other museums and private collections in the United States – and perhaps elsewhere: there is no complete record of the destination of the pieces. Two thousand three hundred objects were bought by the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota (Florida). A large number had earlier gone to Stanford University. Of the thirty-five thousand objects that Cesnola removed from Cyprus, about six thousand remain in the Metropolitan Museum. (Ancient Art from Cyprus – The Cesnola Collection, V. Karageorghis ed. New York 2000)


The Handbook: Table of Contents: The Collection of Glass – Numbers 5051- 5803 p. 503

Glass  5573-5609. 

PLATES AND SAUCERS are of many varieties, all rather Cases thicker  than   the  bottles,  and  usually  furnished  with stouter 2-8 rim,  base  ring,  and  a few concentric lines, borrow plates  of  terra-sigilata.  A  few  (5601-2)  have  handles  on  the rim,  made  of  a  narrow  ribbon  of  glass,  closely applied, and usually  waved  or  corrugated.

III, Ixxxv-Ixxxviii.

Provenance: anonymous sale; Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers of Antiques and Fine Art Marlborough USA, auction 15 December 2011, lot 1252 ex private collection USA Metropolitan   Museum of Art, New York, the museum sold duplicates (5601 & 5602) of the Cesnola collection of glass to private individuals between 1916 – 1925 formerly ex Luigi Palma di Cesnola collection (1832-1904), Collection no. C.G. 746

Published: A Descriptive Atlas of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriote Antiquities in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, L. Palma di Cesnola  (1885-1903), Plate LXXXVI no. 2,Handbook of the Cesnola Collection of Antiquities from Cyprus, J.L. Myres (1914) p. 510;  no. 5602

Reference: Les Verres Antiques du Musée du Louvre II, V. Arveiller-Dulong & M.D. Nenna 2005 nos. 524 & 526, Vetri Antichi del Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Aquileia, L. Mandruzzato & A.,         Marcante 2005 no. 309 Magiche Trasparenze, I vetri dell’antica Albingannum, B. Massabò 2001 no. 5 Vetri antichi del Museo Vetrario di Murano, G. L. Ravagnan 1994 nos. 464 & 465, Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in the Royal Ontario Museum, J. W. Hayes 1975 no. 195

One Response

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  1. wynkin said, on April 30, 2020 at 10:36 am

    Amazing dish and an interesting account of the life of Luigi Palma di Cesnola.

    Yes Cesnola was he remarkable man.

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