Art History PERIOD 1
Mr. Bayliss
By Morgan Drohan

This one isn't ancient but the others are.
This one isn't ancient but the others are.


Glassworking was discovered as a glaze in Mesopotamia in about 3500 BCE (10). Glasses was originally used as a ritual material but over time it has become the tableware and containers that we know and love. The ancient Romans also used glass to make windows, jewelry, mirrors, game pieces, sculpture. Glass powder was used in toothpaste and medicine too (10). The first object that was made completely of glass was made about a thousand years later.

Glass Making Techniques

Core forming, casting, fusing, blowing, stain glass making, and enameling are all glass making techniques. For core forming, there is a ceramic-like material that hot glass is wound around and then a handle is added on. For casting, there is a mold that hot glass is poured into. For fusing, pieces of glass are arranged and glued together then heated up in a kiln so that they stick together. Fusing can be used to make mosaic glass; this is done by fusing glass rods together until their colors swirl. For blowing glass, there is a tube with heated glass at the end that you blow into and the glass expands. There are two types of glass blowing, the types are free-blown glass and mold-blown glass. In free-blown glass, the glass is blown in open air without a mold and mold-blown glass is blown into a mold. The molds for mold-blown glass are typically made of graphite because it does not burn and it cools down the glass. The artist can decorate free-blown glass by pressing, pulling, pinching, and applying trails. Applying trails means adding more glass typically glass rods. It can also be decorated by painting, but you can do the same to mold-blown glass once it is out of its mold. Stain glass is made by cutting glass, arranging the pieces into a design, then putting copper foil, which is sort of like tape, around each piece of glass, after that you apply flux to the copper, like you are painting it on, so that the solder will stick the pieces together, and then use metal to solder the pieces together. For enameling, glass powder is applied to metal with a special kind of glue called Klyr-Fire, which is a water-based adhesive, and put into a kiln in order to fuse the glass and metal together (10).

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Splash-ware is a special kind of decorated glassware. In order to make splash-ware, one must roll a piece of glass across glass chips and then reheat the piece of glass until the chips melt into the original glass piece then the piece can be stretched or inflated in order to make it look like it was splashed with color. Splash-ware can also be created by putting the chips on glaze. This splash-ware jar is considered Earthenware and it is from 10th century Iran, but certain aspects were influences by Iraqi ceramics and 9th century Tang Dynasty Chinese ceramics. The pure white glaze is a characteristic of Tang ceramics. China, Iran and Central Asia all shared the green splashed decoration technique. The characteristic of Iraqi ceramics that this piece has is the raised ridge around the base.

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Roman Cage Cup

Diatreta means “reticulated cup” is the style commonly known as cage cups (9). Cage cups were a luxury roman glass piece from around the fourth century. They were made in specialized shops in places such as the Rhineland-Danubian area in Germany, Northern Italy, Albania, the Dalmatian coast and it was also made in the east. Albania and the Dalmatian coast are referred to as Illyria. The cage cups are considered “the pinnacle of Roman achievements in glass-making” and they were owned by the most privileged members of Roman society (9). There are fewer than a dozen cage cups in the world and most of them are broken because if one mesh of the cage was broken they would have to scrap it. The Trivulzio Cage Cup is the only cage cup with no damage at all, other cage cups that are in good condition include the Cologne cup and the Munich Cup. These cups have an inner cup and an outer cage which is connected to the inner cup with small glass stems or shanks. These cups are made by putting hot glass into a cup then putting in a perforated cup, that is made of plaster of paris or a mixture of quartz pieces and plaster, into the cup of hot glass then add more hot glass and press it down with a double-shelled blank. After the glass in the cups cools down, you can take it out of the the first cup and cut the glass with little loss of the glass, which is hard do only very skilled glass cutters could make cage cups, and the perforated cup will break apart and come out easily. Cage cups that have human or animal figures on them are made a little differently because the figures are applied afterwards. Sturdier cage cups were made later on because thick-walled blanks were used. The cage cups that were not made with thick-walled blanks do not have grinding marks on their inner cup (3). The cup says “Bibe multis annis” which is short for “Bibe vivas multis annis” and that means “Drink and you will live for many years” this suggests that it was used for drinking wine and it was likely for the imperial court or cult ceremonies. Even though the inscription suggests that they would be used for drinking, there is one in the Corning Museum of Glass that people think may have been used at a hanging lamp (4). When a cage cup would be used as a lamp, the person who owned it would fill it with oil and light a wick in it and then the light would have a magical effect on the floor because of the shadow created by the cage (2).

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Mamluk Glass Oil Lamps

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Mamluk glass workers were making thin-walled, elegant vessels such as these lamps. In the fifteenth century, they no longer made their elegant glass vessels because patronage for enameled works left to Italy and the glassworking shops were closed. The Mamluk empire was mainly in Syria but in the fourteenth century Cairo became their capital, so most of their amazing glasswork is contributed to the Egyptians (1). The glass working industry was booming for the Mamluk glass workers because of the need for lamps in order to light up Mosques because light bulbs were not invented yet, and it would take hundreds of years for them to finally get made. Their lamps were not only made for Mosques; they were highly prized and used for special occasions but they were also used for commercial purposes. The Mamluks were known for the gold designs that they painted on the glass with an oil-based material using a paintbrush or reed pen. They used many different colored enamels which is impressive because the different elements in the enamels that give them their colors cause the enamels to require different temperatures to fix them to the piece. The multiple firings of the glass, that make the enamels fix to surface of the piece, cause the glass piece to misshape and deform so the Mamluk glass workers had to perfect the ability to get all the enamels fixed in one firing without the colors bleeding into each other (1).

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We do not know many of the ancient glass workers names, but out of the few have been identified, the most famous ancient glass worker is Ennion. Pieces by Ennion are identifiable by the rectangular panel below the rim of the jars that is inscribed with the words: ““ΕΝΝΙωΝ ΕΠΟΙΕΙ CEN” which means “Ennion made it” (6). Many of the other artists left the location of their workshop in the same place that they put their signature but Ennion only wrote that he made it so archaeologists are having trouble finding out where he is from. Some people believe that his workshop was in or near Sidon which is in northern Palestine, along the coast of the Mediterranean sea because he has a Middle Eastern name. The only problem with that theory is that most of his surviving artworks are in Italy. Another theory is that he started his career in Palestine then moved to Italy. Whichever theory is correct would still make him the greatest glass blower in the Roman Empire because archaeologists were able to determine that he was from the middle of the first century AD and during that time Palestine was in the Roman Empire and of course Italy was also in there with them. There are also many glass artworks like his without his signature which was can infer was because other glass workers were copying his highly refined workmanship (6).

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Funerary Glass

There was trade bringing glass works from the Roman empire, Syria and Iran to China and other parts of Asia. In ancient China, they started glass working by the time of the Warring States, which was from 481 to 221 BCE, and they were inspired by Roman glass pieces (5). One kind of commonly made glass piece that was made during the Warring States period was called “eye beads” and they were based on the beads from the Roman Empire. “Eye beads” were called “eye beads” because they have rings of color on them with another color jutting out from the center of the ring. They were able to do this design by applying trails to the bead while it was still hot and dropping dots for glass in the inside of the circles that they made with the trails, they did not heat the dots as much as they heated the trails so that is why it juts out. Many of the glass pieces from China were used for burials and glass was used in place of jade to make bi which would be buried with the wealthy to symbolize Heaven. They used glass in place of jade because it was easier to shape and like jade it was a valuable material. The particular bi shown was made to resemble white jade which was the most prized type of jade and it has lumps on it to show sprouting seeds and to represent rebirth and new life (5). They also buried people with glass or jade cicadas on their tongues because they represent rebirth due to their unusual life cycles where they spend most of their life underground then they come up. By placing the glass cicada on their tongues it shows that they want the person who is deceased to come back to life. In the Ming dynasty which was from 1368 to 1644, Chinese aristocrats would also have glass hairpins buried with them because they wanted to have everything that they might need in the afterlife including accessories. The particular hairpin shown would have been made in a two part mold then the head of the dragon would be attached to the long pin part (5).

Works Cited
  1. Adamjee, Authors: Stefano Carboni Qamar. “Enameled and Gilded Glass from Islamic Lands | Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art.” The Met's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, THE MET, Accessed 6 June 2017.
  2. “Cage Cup.” All About Glass | Corning Museum of Glass, Corning Museum of Glass, Accessed 6 June 2017.
  3. “Cage Cups.” Cage Cups, Rosemarie Lierke, Accessed 2 June 2017.
  4. “Cage Cup.” Collection Search | Corning Museum of Glass, Corning Museum of Glass, Accessed 2 June 2017.
  5. “Early glass.” Early glass | History and Techniques | Glass from China | PortCities Bristol, PortCities Bristol, Accessed 3 June 2017.
  6. Grossmann, R. A. Ancient glass: a guide to the Yale Collection. New Haven, CT, Yale University Art Gallery, 2002.
  7. Inc., Area360. “Splashware Jar.” Splashware Jar - Asian Civilisations Museum, Asian Civilizations,Museum, Accessed 2 June 2017.
  8. “New light shed on history of ancient glass.” HeritageDaily – Heritage & Archaeology News, HeritageDaily, Accessed 1 June 2017.
  9. Revolvy, LLC. "Cage cup" on Revolvy.Com. Revolvy, Accessed 2 June 2017.
  10. “Glassmaking: history and techniques.” Khan Academy, Khan Academy, Accessed 7 June 2017.