Glass; H. 2 15/16 in. (7.4 cm); H. 1 5/8 in. (4.1 cm)
Fletcher Fund, 1925 (25.78.118)
Edward C. Moore Collection, Bequest of Edward C. Moore, 1891 (91.1.1335)
In the Hellenistic period, gold-band glass was used strictly in the creation of tall and cylindrical alabastra (17.194.286). However, the Romans adapted the use of this glass to include various other forms, including pyxides such as the two illustrated here. Pyxides are lidded storage boxes, usually small and cylindrical, and in glass they could have been either cast or blown. Highly attractive and versatile containers, they were used to hold jewelry (17.194.332,334,344,346; 74.51.4244), cosmetics, and even locks of hair from the first shave and haircut of a boy who has just reached maturity, examples of which have been found in tombs.
These two pyxides shed light on monochrome and mosaic glass processes and illustrate the stunningly beautiful effects that could be achieved by each. The marbled glass pyxis is actually made of imitation gold-glass. The glassmaker replaced the sandwiched gold leaf with opaque yellow glass, perhaps in an effort to promote it as a luxury item for a broader market. This pyxis was cast in two parts and then ground so that the lid would fit snugly over the body. Its translucent brown counterpart was also cast in this manner, and then decorated with two ground horizontal bands on the body and two concentric circles on the top of the lid.