Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Glass snake-thread flask shaped like a mouse

Late Imperial
3rd century A.D.
Glass, blue; blown, tooled, and trailed
Other: 2 1/2 x 2 x 5 3/4 in. (6.3 x 5.1 x 14.6 cm) Diameter: 1 1/16 in. (2.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Renée E. and Robert A. Belfer, 2012
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 169
Translucent cobalt blue, with same color added head, ears, eyes, feet, and snake-thread decoration.
Rounded and thickened rim; funnel-shaped, elongated neck with tooling marks around base; misshapen piriform body, with separate large blob of glass (solid?) applied to rounded bottom of body.
The neck has been turned upwards to appear like the mouse’s tail; added to the body of the vessel to create the animal are four separate tooled trails for the feet and for the head a large blob that has been drawn out to make a pointed nose; ears and eyes have also been added to the head; the body is further decorated with snake-thread trails, all flattened and notched, in the form of two long-necked, thin-legged birds, one on the animal’s back, the other on his belly between his feet, interspersed with foliage comprising tendrils and ivy leaves; a plain spiral trail is wound twice around the lower part of the neck.
Broken and repaired, with small losses to body below head and part of spiral trail on neck is missing. Dulling and iridescent weathering.

Snake-thread is a term used by modern scholars to describe the distinctive type of trailed decoration that is found on this mouse-shaped flask. The trails have been applied in an irregular pattern and then tooled with hatching. Both the shape and the deep blue color of the flask are most unusual.
By 1963 and at least until 1982, collection of Ernst and Marthe Kofler-Truniger, Lucerne; 1985, purchased by Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer though Christie’s, London; 1985-2012, collection of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Belfer, New York; acquired in 2012, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Belfer.
1963. "Recent Important Acquisitions made of Public and Private Collections in the U.S. and Abroad." Journal of Glass Studies, 5: no. 9, p. 142.

Kofler-Truniger, Ernst and Marthe. 1964. Sammlung E. und M. Kofler-Truniger, Luzern : [Ausstellung] 7. Juni bis 2. August 1964. pp. 49, 472, pl. 39, Zurich: Kunsthaus Zürich.

Kunz, Martin. 1981. 3000 Jahre Glaskunst: von der Antike bis zum Jugendstil : [Ausstellung] Kunstmuseum Luzern, 19. 7. - 13. 9. 1981 no. 433, p. 110, Luzern: Kunstmuseum Luzern.

Christie, Manson & Woods. 1985. Ancient Glass. March 5–6, 1985. lot 71, p. 45.

Picón, Carlos A., Joan R. Mertens, Christopher S. Lightfoot, Kyriaki Karoglou, and Seán Hemingway. 2014. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection: 2012–2014." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 72(2): p. 13.

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