Ancient Glass Blog of The Allaire Collection


Posted in Uncategorized by Allaire Collection of Glass on December 12, 2020

A Roman glass ornament in the form of a fish of Elisabeth & Theo Zandbergen

An ornament in the form of a fish, blown from almost clear glass with some silvery iridescence

Origin: Western Empire probably Köln, late 3rd early 4th century AC. Dimensions: H = ~ 2,5 cm.; length ~ 6,5 cm.; weight 6,3 grams. Condition: intact.

Remarks: This ornament is from a so-called Konchylienbecher, hence the slightly curved form.  Konchylien from the Latin konchylion meaning shellfish. The decoration on these bowls shows a combination of fish and shellfish. The bowls are of a large diameter. A number of these bowls have shellfish – clams – as footing. (See: Trier & Naumann-Steckner, Zerbrechlicher Luxus pg. 127)

The intriguing question is; what was the purpose of these bowls or in what context were these used?   Kisa mentions in vol. 3 on pg.768: “… die Konchilienbecher von Trier der in einem altchristlichen Coemeterium(graveyard) des IV Jahrhunderts zu Pallien gefunden wurde …”.

Quite non descriptive as to the person.

A quite expensive funeral gift as these bowls were already pretty rare in those days. Haven’t found (yet) any relation of the by Kisa mentioned burial gift and the role or status of the buried person. A high ranking cleric?

As said, I really don’t know what the function of these heavily decorated bowls was. One could make the hypothesis, based on the fish elements, that these bowls were used in the Christian rites. This as the fish was and still is a token in the Christian tradition. Expanding the hypothesis into the role of these bowls in the religious councils having a communal function ie. sharing wine or the likes thereof.

(Latin: Konchylion; Latin: concilium evolving to council, having quite some affiliation, at least for me. So, a possible connection of this bowl to some “rites” in the early Christian hierarchy?)

Parallels: (no direct parallels found yet)

  • Whitehouse, Corning Museum of Glass vol.II pg. 237, nr. 824,
  • Reflections on Ancient Glass from the Borowski Collection pg.102 plate V-64,
  • Kisa, Das Glas im Altertume, vol.3 pg. 768, 769, pict. 314 pg. 776, pict. 314a pg. 777,
    315 pg.781,
  • Trier & Naumann-Steckner, Zerbrechlicher Luxus pg. 127,
  • Fremersdorf Band VI tafel 20/21,
  • Saldern, Hentrich collection nr. 105,
  • Stern, Römisches, Byzantinisches und Früh Mittelalterliches Glas, pg. 173, nr.68,
  • Arveiller-Dulong & Nenna, les verres Antiques du Musée du Louvre, pg.371 nr. 981,
  • Bijnsdorp, Fascinating Fragility (2010) pg. 229, nr. NFB 166,
  • Wight, Molten Color, pg. 100 nr. 70.


  • Ex Collector Antiques (Bron Lipkin)
  • Ex David Giles collection.

One Response

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  1. wynkin said, on December 12, 2020 at 8:57 am

    What an amazing piece.

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