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Work Oenochoe

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)


© 1999 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)

Astier Marie-Bénédicte

This oenochoe was made using a process invented in Mesopotamia during the 2nd millennium BC. It involved covering a clay core with molten glass pulled into threads. Strands of glass of different colors were then applied to the vase to create the decoration. From the 6th century BC onward, Greek glassmakers used this technique to make small perfume vases with forms borrowed from contemporary Greek pottery.

The technique of core-formed glass

This small oenochoe was made between the late 6th and early 5th century BC using the technique of core-formed glass. This process is known to have been used in Mesopotamia and Egypt from the second half of the 2nd millennium BC onward; it then spread across the entire Mediterranean region. To make this vase, the glassmaker fashioned a core out of clay mixed with sand, to which he added organic matter like straw, grass, leaves or grains. This core was fixed to a metal rod, then covered with dark blue molten glass, pulled into threads. The decoration was obtained by adding strands of glass in different colors-light blue and yellow-worked into zigzags and curled into spirals on the belly. The handle was added on afterwards, as were the mouth and the foot on occasion. After the vase had been left to cool slowly, the clay core was removed.

A form inspired by Greek pottery

This oenochoe entered the Louvre in 1863, two years after Napoleon III purchased the Marquis Campana's collection. Its decoration of spirals and zigzags is characteristic of the small glass vases-oenochoes, alabastrons, aryballoi, and amphoriskoi-produced in the Greek world between the end of the Archaic period and the beginning of the Classical period. Its form-that of a small jug-was inspired by contemporary Greek pottery. With its trefoil lip, ovoid belly, and high handle, it is similar to the earthenware oenochoes made in Rhodes during the early 6th century BC, and also to Attic black-figure oenochoes.

The production of glass perfume vases

During this period, glassmakers produced a number of vases with different forms, which were core-formed and designed to hold oils or perfumes. There was a flourishing trade in these small containers, which made their way all over the Greek world, from the Black Sea to southern Italy, as was the case with this oenochoe. Since an enormous number of these objects were imported, it is often difficult to determine which workshop they came from. Furthermore, there were many centers of production, notably in Rhodes, where a particularly active hub had developed. Core-formed glass perfume vases were produced until the Hellenistic period, but in smaller numbers than during the preceding periods. The method used for closing these containers remains unknown. They probably had stoppers made of perishable material, such as cork wrapped in fabric.


Arveiller-Dulong V., Nenna M.-D., Les verres antiques, I, Paris, 2000, n 136, p. 113.

Technical description

  • Oenochoé

    Fin du VIe - Ve siècle avant J.-C.

    Provenance : Italie

  • H. : 11,70 cm. ; D. : 5,80 cm.

  • Collection Campana, 1861 , 1861

    Cp 8704

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Antique glassware room
    Room 661
    Vitrine 1 : Verres moulés sur noyau d'époque grecque VIe - Ier avant J.-C.

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