Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Glass cage cup fragment

Late Imperial
late 3rd–4th century A.D.
Glass, dichroic; blown or cast and cut
H.: 2 3/16 x 3 in. (5.6 x 7.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1926
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 169
Translucent honey brown, appearing olive green in reflected light.

Flaring rim, with tapering lip; convex curving side to body; five bridges support the high relief decoration on the body.

On exterior, a single raised horizontal line below rim; an openwork band at top of side, comprising a frieze of vertical darts, of which eleven are preserved intact or in part, flaring out and downwards, each with upward V-shaped cut decoration; on main part of body, figural decoration, attached by slender bridges, of which only the upper part of one figure survives: at right, a standing male, identified as a satyr but possibly Dionysos, with head turned in profile to left, bare upper chest, and left arm outstretched and holding a long staff or thrysos; at left, small part of unidentifiable object or figure.

Part of rim, broken on sides and below, with weathered edges; creamy weathering covering most of surfaces, some surface pitting of pinprick bubbles, and small patches of iridescence.

Cage cups comprise a rare group of late Roman luxury glassware that was decorated with openwork designs in deep relief, usually in geometric patterns, less frequently in figural scenes. The most unusual type, as represented by this fragment, combines figures—part of a satyr is visible here—with a special effect known as dichroism, created by the composition of the glass. Minute particles of gold and silver have been added to the glass to make it appear to be two different colors, olive green in reflected light and reddish amber in transmitted light. Although the surviving length of rim is only 1 3/16 in. (3 cm), the rim diameter can be estimated to be about 7 1/16 in. (18 cm). The fragment therefore belongs to a large bowl rather than a cup or beaker.
Alexander, Christine. 1929. "Miscellaneous Accessions in the Classical Department." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 24(8): pp. 202, 204, fig. 3.

Smith, Ray Winfield. 1949. "The Significance of Roman Glass." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 8(2): p. 54.

Whitehouse, David Dr. and International Association for the History of Glass. 1993. "Fragments of Late Roman Cage Cups in The United States." Annales du 12e Congrès de l'Association Internationale pour l'Histoire du Verre, Vienne - Wien, 26-31 août 1991. pp. 111-3, fig. 1.

Sorabella, Jean. 2001. "A Roman Sarcophagus and its Patron." Metropolitan Museum Journal, 36: p. 54.

Whitehouse, David, William Gudenrath, and Paul Roberts. 2015. Cage Cups: Late Roman Luxury Glasses. no. 14, p. 92, Corning.

Meredith, Hallie G. 2015. Word Becomes Image: Openwork Vessels as a Reflection of Late Antique Transformation. cat. 91, pp. 32 n. 36, 276-7, pls. 91.1-6, Oxford: Archaeopress.

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