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Work Skyphos

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st centuries BC)

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© 2011 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Hellenistic Art (3rd-1st centuries BC)

Astier Marie-Bénédicte

During the Hellenistic period, glassworkers produced extremely luxurious tableware, whose shapes were sometimes inspired by Greek ceramic work or metalware. This is the case with this skyphos, a broad, deep drinking vessel with two handles, one of the numerous containers found in the tombs at Canosa, southern Italy. The site yielded molded glassware of very high technical quality, which was made in the third and second centuries BC.

A work from the "Canosa group"

In 1895, excavations at Canosa, southern Italy, led to the discovery of this glass skyphos in a woman's tomb in the Scocchera hypogeum. This part of Puglia has yielded a large quantity of thin-walled clear glass of very high technical quality known as the "Canosa group." The dating of the pieces is still controversial. The vases were probably made between the middle of the third century and the first few decades of the second century BC; the Greek city of Canosa had been occupied by the Romans since 318 BC.

Inspired by Greek tableware

In the third century BC, during the Hellenistic period, glassworkers produced carefully executed luxury tableware in various shapes. The shape of this container is inspired by the metal or terra-cotta drinking vessels of Greek tableware. It has a broad, deep belly, two handles with rectangular thumb rests, and stands on an added ring-shaped base. This shape was often reproduced in the late Hellenistic period but with smaller proportions (the size of this piece is exceptional).

A molded-glass vessel

Glassmakers used several molding techniques over the centuries. The technique first appeared in the second half of the second millennium BC and was used in the Greco-Roman world for valuable pieces until the early second century AD. A luxury object, this monochrome vase was made with great care in a workshop whose precise location is not known; it was perhaps located in Alexandria or Italy. The glass is slightly yellowish and was bleached with antimony using a process invented in Mesopotamia in the eighth or seventh centuries BC and used in Greece beginning in the fifth or fourth centuries BC. It was then poured into a closed mold and then polished cold (the outside) and hot (inside) to make the surface smoother.


Arveiller-Dulong V., Nenna M.-D., Les verres antiques, I, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 2000, n 208, p. 177.
Stern E.M., Schlick-Nolte B., Early Glass of the Ancient World, 1600 B.C.-A.D. 50, Ernesto Wolf Collection, Ostfildern : Verlag Gerd Hatje, 1994, p. 99, fig. 179.

Technical description

  • Skyphos

    Vers 200 avant J.-C.

    Canosa, hypogée Scocchera, tombe B

  • Verre incolore légèrement jaunâtre, moulé et poli

    H. : 16 cm. ; D. : 20,5 cm.

  • Achat, 1897, C. et E. Canessa , 1897

    N° d’entrée MNC 2200

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Venus de Milo gallery
    Room 10
    Vitrine 4

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