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Work Amphoriskos with sloping sides, decorated with fillets and impressions

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Christian and Byzantine Art

Amphorisque ornée de filets, dépressions et côtes obliques

© Musée du Louvre

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Christian and Byzantine Art

Astier Marie-Bénédicte

The earliest glassware made by the blowing and molding technique dates from the first century AD; it was this technique that was principally responsible for the swift spread and evolution of the Roman taste for glassware. This amphoriskos (little amphora) bears witness to the extraordinary popularity that this form enjoyed in the eastern Roman Empire in the fourth century AD. Colored glass was prized in Syria, where contrasting colors were used for the bodies of works and their decoration.

A Near Eastern work of the fourth century AD

This amphoriskos (little amphora) almost certainly comes from the Near East, where it was probably also produced. It was made in the fourth century AD, when the fashion for colored glass was particularly prevalent in Syria. Most of the vases produced in the region during this period, like this one, have a transparent yellow body that contrasts with the dark blue used for the handles and added decorative elements.

A widespread type of glassware

With its circular mouth, tall neck, and elongated and ribbed body, the shape of this flask is one of the most common for crafted tableware of the period, particularly blown glassware. This type of vase would have been used every day along with terra-cotta pots and metalware. Large containers were used to transport and store liquids, and small ones generally contained perfumes or perfumed oils.

The technique of blown and molded glass

The technique of glassblowing was discovered by glassworkers in the eastern Mediterranean region circa 50 BC. This technique of producing glassware with a blowing iron rapidly spread across the Roman Empire, and glassware became extremely popular as a result. A more complex technique, whereby glass was blown and molded, was discovered between 25 and 50 AD, contributing yet further to the taste for glass vases, vials, and flasks. This amphoriskos was made by means of this technique in the fourth century AD. In order to achieve this shape of container, the glassworker made use of a mold made of stone, plaster, terra-cotta, or copper alloy. Having gathered a small quantity of fused glass at the end of a metal pipe about one meter long, the craftsman placed the gob of glass inside a mold and then blew down the pipe, so that the gob inflated and married perfectly with the interior surfaces of the mould. The handles were applied after this, as was the decoration, which consists of a fine fillet of glass stretched out while hot and wrapped in a spiral around the neck of the amphoriskos.


Arveiller V., "Le verre soufflé romain", Feuillet pédagogique du Musée du Louvre, 3, n 29, Paris, 1998.

Technical description

  • Amphorisque ornée de filets, dépressions et côtes obliques

    IVe siècle après J.-C.

    Provenance : Proche-Orient ?

  • H. : 21 cm. ; D. : 7,80 cm.

  • Collection de Clercq, don H. de Boisgelin, 1967 , 1967

    MNE 155

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Antique glassware room
    Room 661
    Vitrine 3 : Verres soufflés Ier - IVe siècle après J.-C.

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