A Roman Glass Ungentarium, ca. 1st century CE
A Roman Glass Ungentarium, ca. 1st century CE
A Roman Glass Ungentarium, ca. 1st century CE
A Roman Glass Ungentarium, ca. 1st century CE
A Roman Glass Ungentarium, ca. 1st century CE
A Roman Glass Ungentarium, ca. 1st century CE

A Roman Glass Ungentarium, ca. 1st century CE


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This graceful little bottle is a wonderful example of Roman glass. The glass itself is of a sea-green hue and is partially covered with iridescence and encrustation. The body of the glass is globular; the neck is tall, straight, and slender, with a flaring, out-turned rim. This bottle was formed by free-blowing, a process by which molten glass is inflated and then fashioned into a vessel by the artisan without the aid of a mold. Thanks to the simplicity of its structure, vessels of this type are considered to be among the very first forms the glassmakers learned to blow: for, the introduction of the glass blowing technique was an important and progressive technological revolution that took place about the mid-1st century BC in the Syro-Palestinian region from where it spread rapidly all around the Mediterranean.

Usually known as “toilet bottles” or unguentaria in Latin (sing. unguentarium), they served as containers for different kinds of perfumed oils used in bathing and personal grooming but also for scented powders needed in cosmetic preparations, pharmaceutical ointments, and balsams. The function of the vessel is recognized in its design – the bulbous body contains an amount of liquid and the long slender neck helps dispense it. Ungentaria are found mostly without their stoppers, for, being made of organic material they have not survived, otherwise the content would not be prevented from evaporating or spilling.

Reference: Hayes J. W. Roman and Pre-Roman Glass in the Royal Ontario Museum. Toronto, 1975.
Susan H. Auth "Ancient Glass at the Newark Museum from the Eugene Schaefer collection" (1976) p. 211, #404-406 50.1679.

Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall with no chips, cracks or breaks.

Dimensions: Height: 4 1/2 inches (11.5 cm)

Provenance: Estate of Dr. Seymour Ira Schwartz (1928 – 2020), Rochester, New York. Dr. Schwartz, an eminent surgeon, and prolific polymath was the founding editor of the 1,800-page surgery textbook, first published in 1969, that became a bible for medical students. He was one of the most prolific and honored surgeons in American history with further successes outside of the field of medicine as a renowned author and cartographic historian.

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