A Roman Electrum-Glass Bead depicting Harpokrates, Early Roman Imperial Period, ca. 50 BCE – 50 CE
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Gold glass beads were a Hellenistic development. They were created by combining drawn tubes of colorless glass with gold or electrum foil. The earliest examples were finished bead by bead. This flat rectangular example of colorless glass, has rounded edges and corners with a hole pierced vertically through the bead. On the upper surface is Harpokrates the child in raised relief, facing front, wearing the sidelock of youth, his right arm raised holding a finger to his mouth. The underside with a pattern of raised dots in horizontal rows.
For related examples see Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number: 17.194.509 and Spaer, M., Barag, D., Ornan, T., & Neuhaus, T. (2001), Ancient glass in the Israel Museum: Beads and Other Small Objects, Jerusalem: Israel Museum, p. 137 #234-235.
Gold-glass beads with figurative motifs are rare on the whole, but nonetheless well documented. Such beads have been found primarily in Egypt and Nubia but also in southern Russia and even Iran. There is no way of knowing if they were all manufactured in Egypt and exported, or made by similar methods (and possibly identical molds) in different locations.
Dimensions: Height: 1 1/4 inches (2.9 cm)
Condition: Weathered edge resulting in minor loss to the foiling at the top of the bead, craquelure, and fine surface sheet, intact and in excellent condition overall.
Provenance: Paul I. Ilton (1904-1958) private collection, acquired prior 1958 and then by descent to his son, Arie Ilton. Born in Germany and educated in Universities Cologne and Berlin, Ilton moved to Palestine in 1934 becoming a Palestinian citizen, conducting continuous archaeological research in Palestine, Trans-Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Hedjaz-At and assembling a personal collection that was published in 1958. With the outbreak of World War II, he entered the British Information Service in Jerusalem and served with the rank of captain until 1946 when he took up permanent residence in the United States lecturing at both New York University and Cornell University.