The J. Paul Getty Museum

Cameo Glass Skyphos

Object Details


Cameo Glass Skyphos






Roman Empire (Place Created)


25 B.C.–A.D. 25



Object Number:



10.5 × 17.6 × 10.6 cm (4 1/8 × 6 15/16 × 4 3/16 in.)

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Object Description

This rare and opulent drinking cup is cast and carved in cameo glass, a technique of glass production primarily associated with the early Roman Empire and the elite and royal of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Its manufacture is therefore mostly limited to the approximately fifty years between 25 BC – AD 25. The most popular color scheme is opaque white glass layered over translucent deep blue glass. Although the workshop or workshops that produced this glass has not been found, it is presumed to have been located in Rome, where many fragments have been found. More pieces have been found in Pompeii and around the Bay of Naples, where powerful Romans spent their leisure time.

The shape of the cup (skyphos) emulates silver and glass drinking vessels. It was likely cast in blue with white overlay, in this case the white layer produced by trailing, whereby the glass maker reheated the cup cast in blue glass and applied a trail of molten white glass around its exterior until the blue cast shape was completely covered with a thick opaque layer of white. During the annealing (cooling) phase the images were sculpted in relief by carving the white glass away from the blue in order that light could pass through the translucent blue glass surrounding the finished relief decoration in white. The cup was then finished on a lathe, carved, cut, ground and polished. Making it would have required the skills of a glass maker to create the cup and a lapidary to carve it.

Below each handle is a mask of a silenus. The scenes on each side of the cup are thematically associated with the introduction of Ariadne to a cult, perhaps of Cybele, a statue of whom sits atop a stele in a rustic shrine on side B. In the center of side A, Ariadne reclines, partially draped, atop a pile of smoothly squared rock, with her arm thrown over her head in a posture well-known from many Roman copies in marble. The same figure appears on the Portland Vase (British Museum 1945,0927.1), the most famous cameo glass piece to have survived and a contemporary to our cup. To the left of Ariadne, a satyr holding a set of pan pipes and a crooked staff (a Bacchic pedum) looks back on the central scene as he walks away toward the nut trees on the left. To the right, a woman extends a sacred basket (liknon) towards Ariadne, perhaps depicting the revelation of the Bacchic cult. On side B, in a divine sanctuary framed by fig trees, an identical figure and thus also Ariadne, sits at right in front of an altar and a tall stele crowned by a statuette of Cybele. At left is a partially draped woman leaning on a krater, drinking wine from a large cup. Between them stands a satyr playing a lyre, underscoring the musical nature of the setting and walking toward this woman as he turns to look back at Ariadne.

by 1982 - 1984

Mehdi Mahboubian, Iranian, 1921 - 2005 (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Glass of the Caesars (April 23, 1987 to September 11, 1988)
  • The Corning Museum of Glass (Corning), April 23 to October 18, 1987
  • Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum (Mainz), March 11 to September 11, 1988
Ancient Art from the Permanent Collection (March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004
Rome on the Grand Tour (January 8 to August 11, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 8 to August 11, 2002
Reflecting Antiquity: Modern Glass Inspired by Ancient Rome (October 18, 2007 to May 27, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa (Malibu), October 18, 2007 to January 14, 2008
  • The Corning Museum of Glass (Corning), February 15 to May 27, 2008
The Mediterranean Melting Pot: Commerce and Cultural Exchange in Antiquity (September 9 to December 18, 2011)
  • Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri-Columbia, September 9 to December 18, 2011

Goldstein, Sidney M., et al. Cameo Glass. Masterpieces from 2000 Years of Glassmaking. Exh. cat., Corning Museum of Glass, May 1-October 31, 1982. Corning, NY: 1982, pp. 13-14, no. 4; p. 28, fig.16; pp. 103-4, cat. no. 16.

"Acquisitions/1984." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 13 (1985), pp. 173-74, no. 38.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 1st ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986), p. 63.

Armstrong, A. H. Classical Mediterranean Spirituality (London: SCM Press, 1986), p. 143, fig. 10.

Sotheby's, London. Ancient Glass, November 20, 1987, p. 64.

Harden, Donald B. "Cameo Glasses," Glass of the Caesars. Exh. cat., Corning Museum of Glass, April 25-October 18, 1987, et alia loca. Milan: 1987. pp. 53-57, pp. 54, 68-69; cat. no. 31.

Fernandez, I. G. "J. Paul Getty Museum." Revista de Arqueologia 115 (1990), p. 56, ill.

Painter, Kenneth, and David Whitehouse. "The Portland Vase." Journal of Glass Studies 32 (1990), pp. 143-45, cat. no. A4, ill. figs. 100-1.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991), p. 55.

Whitehouse, David. "Cameo Glass," Roman Glass: Two Centuries of Art and Invention. M. Newby and K. Painter, eds. London: 1991. pp. 19-32, pp. 25, 27, and 31, no. 16; pl. VIII a.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 4th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 55.

Towne Markus, Elana. Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Antiquities. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 105.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 55.

Rudolph, Wolf. "Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum." In Der Neue Pauly: Enzyklopadie der Antike. Rezeptions- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Vol. 15, part 1 La-Ot (Stuttgart; Weimar: J. B. Metzler, 2001), p. 288, fig. 4.

Wight, Karol. "The Iconography of the Getty Skyphos." Annales du 15th Congres de l'Association Internationale pour l'Histoire du Verre (2001), pp. 36-40. figs. 1-6.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: 2002), p. 205.

Oliver, Jr., Andrew. "The Changing Fashions of Roman Silver." Record: Princeton University Art Museum 63 (2004), pp. 21-2, fig. 29.

Spivey, Nigel and Squire, Michael. Panorama of the Classical World (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), p. 280, fig. 438.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), p. 48, ill.

Lierke, Rosemarie. Die nicht-geblasenen antiken Glasgefäße-ihre Herstellung von den Anfänge bis zu den Luxusgläsern der Römer (Offenbach/Main: Deutsche Glastechnische Gesellschaft, 2009), p. 36, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), pp. 214-215.

Lierke, Rosemarie. "Zur Herstellung der antiken Kameogläser." in Restaurierung und Archäologie 4, 2011, 75-105, 77, fig. 1.1, 87, fig. 20.