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Collection

Glass

The collection of glass in the museum, which includes about 4,000 objects, consists mainly of finds from the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. One of the most famous is the “Blue vase”, a small amphora with Dionysiac scenes made using the glass-cameo technique.

History and formationThe collection of glass in the museum, which includes about 4,000 objects, consists mainly of finds from the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Originally housed in the Real Museo Ercolanese in Portici, where in 1756 the collection numbered about 500 objects, it was transferred after 1805, like other collections, to the Real Museo Borbonico. The acquisition of private collections and the Bourbon excavations, which were carried out in the first half of the nineteenth century in some of the most well-known sites of southern Italy, helped to enlarge the collection so that by 1832 there were about 2,400 objects. The material included a large amount of glass (the Gargiulo collection and the collection of Monsignor Rosini, bishop of Pozzuoli), funerary urns from Nola (Vivenzio collection), large plates and ointment jars in polychrome glass from the Hellenistic tombs in Canosium. The excavations continued after the unification of Italy, further enlarging the collection. The acquisition of a glass found at Sepino in a late Roman tomb dates to 1919. Description of the collectionThe collection is situated on the first floor of the museum (rooms LXXXV - LXXXVI). The material in room LXXXV is displayed more or less as it was originally organised in the 1930s; the material is arranged according to the main characteristic of the finds: coloured glass and naturally coloured glass. Room LXXXVI illustrates the main uses of glass connected to the various techniques of working, from the oldest examples of glass objects to the technique of free-blowing and moulding and of glass-cameos. The objects, which are subdivided according to their different functions, include glass tableware and toiletries, funerary containers and gaming pieces. The tableware from the excavations of Vesuvian cities includes a large typology of objects: these include cups and dishes used to contain or serve food, glasses, cups, two handled cups for drinking, jugs and bottles for containing liquids, sympula for drawing water, funnels and flasks for decanting liquids. The toiletry glass consists mainly of various small containers (ointment jars, alabastra, aryballoi, pyxides) designed for ointments, cosmetics and perfumes. The oldest examples, produced between the mid-second millennium BC and the Hellenistic period, were made by shaping the glass around a sand core which was removed in the final phase of working. With the invention of the technique of glass-blowing, in the second quarter of the first century BC, there was a large expansion in the use of glass objects and some of the first types to be widely used were ointment jars. From the middle Augustan period, glass production using glass-blowing techniques had reached a large scale with a considerable variety of types such as spherical or dove-shaped forms. Vessels for funerary use included large cinerary urns with a lid, with or without a handle, used to contain the ashes of the deceased, as well as other objects used as grave goods such as ointment jars, glasses and small jugs. The large quantity of ointment jars and other small containers found in cemeteries reveal the use of ointments, perfumes and incense linked to cremation rites and the preservation of corpses. The famous “Blue vase” belonged to the grave goods of a burial; the vase was a small amphora with dionysiac scenes made using the glass-cameo technique. Other objects with a wide variety of functions were also made of glass: gaming pieces in glass paste were used in a game akin to draughts, glass panels, made with a mould or using the glass cameo technique, were probably used to decorate furniture, while rarer objects included paintings which were applied cold to the surface of glass vases. The use of glass in buildings is also shown by the production of sheets of glass for sealing windows, made using the technique of casting or blowing.

Further information
Collection data
Bibliography:

Ziviello 1989b; Museo Archeologico1994; Museo Archeologico 1999.

Location: First floor; rooms LXXXV - LXXXVI