image (1)

Lot 8. A Roman amber glass 'Victory' beaker, Circa early-mid 1st Century A.D.; 6.5cm high. Estimate £20,000 - £30,000. Sold for £ 25,250 (€ 29,517)© Bonhams 2001-2021

Blown in a two-part mould, of cylindrical form with a narrow everted rim, with three registers of decoration divided by horizontal ribs, the upper and lower with six stylised victory wreaths, a pair of opposing palm branches concealing the vertical mould seams, the central register with Greek inscription: ɅABE THИ NEIKHN ('Seize the Victory'), the underside of the flat base with a single raised circle.

ProvenanceMr and Mrs A. Constable-Maxwell collection, UK.
The Constable-Maxwell Collection of Ancient Glass; Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 4-5 June 1979, lot 229.
Important Ancient Glass from the Collection formed by the British Rail Pension Fund; Sotheby's, London, 24 November 1997, lot 15.
Private collection, USA, acquired from the above sale.

PublishedS.B. Matheson, Ancient Glass in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1980, p. 53-54.

On LoanThe Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1980-1985.
The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY, 1985-1995.

Note: This beaker is an important example of a group of mould-blown drinking cups which have been variously suggested as commemorative of drinking games, chariot races and gladiatorial contests; though the specifics remain debateable, the inscription of 'Seize the Victory' and the stylised wreaths confirms this cup was used for celebration of some sort of feat.

These Victory beakers were first discussed and categorised by D. B. Harden in 'Romano-Syrian Glasses with Mould-Blown Inscriptions;, JRS, vol. 25, 1935, pp. 163-186. The Constable-Maxwell beaker falls into Harden's Group K (he lists 17 examples), sub-group 1 iii. A characteristic of this sub-group is the distinctive reversed N, and the extended E in NEIKHN. The reversed N is either the result of a mistake by the mould-maker while working in negative, or an intentional design. If the latter, it may be a maker's mark, the significance of which is now lost.

There are at least four distinct types of these so-called 'Victory' beakers, some of which have been found along the Syro-Palestinian coast, Cyprus, Greece, Sardinia and Panticapaeum in the Crimea. They may have originated from workshops near Sidon, on the Phoenician coast.

For related amber coloured examples of this type of inscribed drinking cup, see examples in the British Museum, London, acc. no. 1894,1101.108, J. Paul Getty Museum, LA, no. 2003.319 (formerly in the Oppenländer collection), the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (N. Kunina, Ancient Glass in the Hermitage Collection, St Petersburg, 1997, p.273, no. 113), the Toledo Museum of Art, OH, acc. nos. 1923.411-412 (E. Marianne Stern, The Toledo Museum of Art, Roman Mold-Blown Glass, Toledo, 1995, p.98-99), and the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, acc. no. 77.12.751. See also the example recorded in D. Whitehouse, Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, vol. 2, Corning, 2001, p. 26, no. 491, where he lists twenty known examples of Victory beakers with a one-line inscription.


Lot 15. A Roman blue-green glass lidded cinerary urn, Circa 1st-2nd Century A.D.; 37cm high incl. the lid, the urn 30.5cm high. Estimate £8,000 - £12,000Sold for £ 15,250 (€ 17,827)© Bonhams 2001-2021

The collar rim folded outwards, with a pair of vertical 'M' shaped handles of thick trail rising from the shoulder with some encircling tooling mark bands, the piriform body tapering to the narrow splayed hollow foot, the disc-shaped lid with raised conical hollow stem surmounted by a knobbed finial.

ProvenancePrivate collection USA, formed from the 1980s onwards.

Note: In the early Roman Imperial Period cremation was the preferred method of burial in Italy and the Northwest Provinces where the use of cinerary urns for holding the ashes was common practice. Glass urns excavated from tombs in Italy, Gaul and Britain were sometimes found protected within stone or lead containers, which may explain why so many have survived intact.

Cinerary urns with double arched handles and conical lids, like the above lot, can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 81.10.2a, b and 91.1.1297a, b. Interestingly, as with this lot, the lid of one of the Met examples 'does not fit the urn when placed upright' exactly, and it is suggested that 'it may, however, originally have been placed upside down like a funnel lid'. There are illustrations of urns being discovered with the lid pointing downwards. This is because they were often placed inside lead containers with flat covers, and the glass lid, if placed upright, would make the complete vessel too tall; see an illustration of an example from Carthage reproduced in F. Baratte, 'La verrerie dans l'afrique romaine: état des questions', Kölner Jahrbuch für vor-und Frühgeschichte, vol. 22, 1989, p. 147, fig. 7. Some urns with this shape of conical lid were pierced at the centre and could have been used as a funnel, so that libations could be neatly poured into the urn, again when the lid was inverted with the point facing downwards. For other similar forms of urn and lid in the Louvre cf. V. Arveiller-Dulong & M-D. Nenna, Les Verres Antiques du Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2005, p. 170, fig. 479, and for the lid p.176, fig. 505.


Lot 22. A Roman amber glass flask; 27.3cm high. Estimate £2,000 - £3,000. Sold for £ 10,837 (€ 12,669)© Bonhams 2001-202

The elongated mould blown body with slender vertical ribs and rounded indented base, with dark blue trail handles, an encircling band of trail beneath the flaring mouth.

ProvenanceGiorgio Sangiorgi (1886-1965), Rome, acquired and brought to Switzerland; and thence by continuous descent.
Ancient Glass formerly in the G. Sangiorgi Collection; Christie's, New York, 3 June 1999, lot 193.
Private collection, USA, acquired from the above sale.

Note: Such vessels may have contained caroenum, a wine sauce frequently used to sweeten Roman dishes.


image (2)

image (3)

Lot 3. A Roman blue-green glass ribbed bowl, Circa early 1st Century A.D.; 12.5cm diam. Estimate £5,000 - £7,000. Sold for £ 8,287 (€ 9,688)© Bonhams 2001-2021

The hemispherical bowl cast with twenty-nine vertical ribs on the exterior, decorated on the interior with a wheel-cut groove below the rim and with concentric wheel-cut rings in the centre, with a short vertical rim and a flattened base.

Provenancewith Fortuna Fine Arts Ltd, New York.
Private collection, USA, acquired from the above 17 June 1991.

Note: For a similar ribbed bowl see the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, New York, acc. no. 79.1.145.


image (4)

image (5)

Lot 30. A Byzantine green glass hexagonal pitcher with Christian symbols, Circa 5th-6th Century A.D.; 14cm high. Estimate £5,000 - £7,000. Sold for £ 7,650 (€ 8,942)© Bonhams 2001-2021

Blown into a six-sided two-part mould with the mould-seam running across the base, and the shoulders expanding over the top of the mould, decorated in low relief on all sides of the body, clockwise from beneath the handle: (1) a palm frond; (2) an ampulla with a vine rising from within; (3) a large cross set above a saltire (crux decussata) with dots; (4) a palm frond; (5) the figure of a saint holding a cross, a wavy line on his robe; (6) diamond latticework; the cylindrical neck with inward-folded rim, the pincered wishbone handle with a pinched thumb-rest, with concave base.

Provenancewith Antiquarium Ltd, New York (Reflections of Antiquity. Ancient Glass Through the Ages, 1989, p. 22).
Private collection, USA, acquired from the above 30 September 1992.

Note: This jug is an incredibly rare survival. The figure depicted is likely a Stylite saint and, more specifically, probably St Simeon Stylite (c. 389-459 A.D.), whose pillar and subsequent church at Qal'at Sema'an, near Antioch, was a great pilgrimage centre, where a wide variety of souvenirs and eulogiae in pottery and glass were produced for the large number of visiting pilgrims.

For another example, probably from the same workshop, blown into a very similar mould with the same distinctive handle, but where the order of the panels is different, see M. Newby, Byzantine Mould-Blown Glass from the Holy Land with Jewish and Christian Symbols, London, 2008, 176, p. 218-19, no. 71. Another example, from the same mould as this lot, formerly in the Benzian collection, was exhibited in 3000 Jahre Glaskunst von der Antike bis zum Jugendstil, at the Kunstmuseum Luzern in 1981 (exhibition cat. p. 90, no. 326), and sold at Sotheby's, London, 7th July 1994, lot 165. For further, related examples, see E.M. Stern, The Toledo Museum of Art, Roman Mold-Blown Glass, Toledo, 1995, p.266-7, no. 190 and S.B. Matheson, Ancient Glass in the Yale University Art Gallery, 1980, pp.132-138, nos. 352-363. Matheson notes that 'vines growing out of amphorae...are common in relief decoration and mosaics of 6th Century churches' (ibid., p. 138).


Lot 32. A late Roman-early Byzantine yellow green glass bottle, Circa 5th-7th Century A.D.; 32.4cm high. Estimate £1,500 - £2,500Sold for £ 7,650 (€ 8,942)© Bonhams 2001-2021

The base of the elongated neck constricted and then expanding towards the spherical body, a band of spiral trail decoration beneath the funnel mouth with further horizontal trails above and below, with pushed-in base, ink number '1502' on the underside of the base.

ProvenanceParmenia M. Ekstrom (1980-1989) collection, New York.
Property from the Estate of Parmenia M. Ekstrom; Sotheby's, New York, 12 December 1991, lot 2.
Private collection, USA, acquired from the above sale.

Note: For more Eastern Mediterranean flasks of similar but less elongated form see S. Matheson, Ancient Glass in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 1980, p.125-126, no. 336, and an example in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, acc. no. 21.1365.

Parmenia Migel Ekstrom (1908-1989) was a ballet historian and author, as well as the founder and president of the Stravinsky-Diaghilev Foundation.

Bonhams. Antiquities, London, 6 July 2021.