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Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History Essays

Roman Gold-Band Glass

One of the more prominent Roman adaptations of Hellenistic styles of glassware was the transferred use of gold-band glass on shapes and forms previously unknown to the medium. This type of glass is characterized by a strip of gold glass comprised of a layer of gold leaf sandwiched between two layers of colorless glass. Typical color schemes also include green, blue, and purple glasses, usually laid side by side and marbled into an onyx pattern before being cast or blown into shape. While in the Hellenistic period the use of gold-band glass was mostly restricted to the creation of alabastra (17.194.286), the Romans adapted the medium for the creation of a variety of other shapes. Luxury items in gold-band glass include lidded pyxides (91.1.1335), globular and carinated bottles (30.115.16; 17.194.259), and other more exotic shapes such as saucepans and scyphi (two-handled cups) of various sizes. The prosperous upper classes of Augustan Rome appreciated this glass for its stylistic value and apparent opulence, and the examples shown here illustrate the elegant effects gold glass can bring to these forms.