Glass & Glass-Making
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and it was not long before Rome carried the art to a point that had never
before been reached.
Period of Augustus
(63 B.C.-14 A.D.)
The great number of specimens and fragments dug up
in all parts of Europe seem to prove the theory that glass was even more
used in the ancient than in the modern world. There is no process used in
present times that was unknown to the Romans two thousand years ago. They
used glass for every conceivable purpose, even for such small articles as
dice, and balls to cool their heated hands. They made glass in every color
but ruby, and they made opaque, mottled and variegated glass. They decorated
glass with painting, enameling, gilt inlay and engraving; and they cut it to
They also made milky-white and opalescent glass, a
mosaic formed of myriad patterns (later imitated by the Venetians as
millefiori), and every kind of filigree, and
lace-like glass; and they imprisoned spiral threads of different colors in
the stems of glasses for decoration in a style that was made hundreds of
years later on the island of Murano.
Nothing illustrates Roman skill better than the
story of the Emperor Heliogabalus
(205-222 A.D.), who, wishing to play a joke on some guests, invited them to
a feast. When they took their places at the immense table, set out with
the most elaborate viands, confections and fruits (history tells us how
luxurious Roman cookery was), they found that all these delicacies were
imitations made of glass!
Perhaps the most typical Roman work is the
cameo glass. Of this nature is the Portland Vase,
from the supposed tomb of the
Emperor Alexander Severus (who died
about A.D. 235), and a similar urn (Naples Museum), which was found in
Pompeii, carefully preserved for future ages by the irruption of
Vesuvius in A.D. 79.
Mosque lamp of the early part of
14th century. In the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New York
When the barbarians advanced upon Rome, Constantine
transferred the seat of Empire to Byzantium (Constantinople) in A.D. 330.
Among the artisans that were taken to the new city, glass-makers were not
the least important. In the Byzantine style are the famous
"Hedwig Glasses" (only seven are known), named
from the one in Breslau associated with St. Hedwig, patroness of Silesia
and Poland. They are thick, heavy tumblers, dark in color, and deeply cut
on a wheel, the figures in high relief.
To Byzantium is ascribed the fashioning