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Lotus Bud Beaker
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Unknown
Roman, Eastern Mediterranean, 1st century A.D.
Mold-blown glass
8 3/8 in.
2003.320

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Although this amber-colored beaker looks remarkably contemporary, it was made almost 2000 years ago. The high-relief knobs decorating the body of the glass represent lotus buds--a popular motif in Roman art and a familiar design, even in today's glassware. What makes this work different is that the artist used what was then a new technique--glassblowing.

Prior to the discovery of glassblowing techniques, glassmakers poured or pressed molten glass into molds to create thick vessels. But this vessel is mold-blown glass. The artist gathered a blob of molten glass on the end of a hollow metal tube, which he then blew into to inflate the glass. Glassblowing the object created its unique shape, and made it lighter and thinner than if it had been cast. The mold used to make this beaker had four parts: three side panels and a base section. Mold seams are still visible.

The sharp-edged lip of this beaker indicates it was never used for drinking. More likely, it was a gift to the dead--and buried with a body.


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