Cameo Glass Flask

Object Details


Cameo Glass Flask






Roman Empire (Place created)


25 B.C. - 25 A.D.




7.6 × 4.2 cm (3 × 1 5/8 in.)

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An Egyptian pharaoh, identified by his crown and staff, and an obelisk with meaningless hieroglyphs decorate the front of this Roman cameo glass flask. On the other sides, one boy approaches an altar surmounted by the Egyptian god Thoth in the form of a baboon, while a second boy approaches another altar decorated with a uraeus or sacred snake. The decoration of this small flask, which probably held perfumed oil, may show the story of the young god Horus, who was brought back to life by Thoth after being stung by a scorpion. The imagery on this vessel may have had specific meaning for its owner; or, more probably, it may reflect the general popularity of Egyptianizing scenes in Roman art after the Roman Empire's annexation of Egypt.

Due to the time and labor involved in its creation, cameo glass was very rare. Artisans first covered or encased colored glass with opaque white glass. They partially cut away the white layer to reveal the colored background, and then carved the raised white areas in relief. Artisans practiced this technique almost exclusively in the early Roman Empire.

by 1962 - 1985

Ernst Kofler


and Marthe Truniger (Lucerne, Switzerland) [sold, Ancient Glass Formerly in the Kofler-Truniger Collection, Christie's, London, March 5-6, 1985, lot 150, to the J. Paul Getty Museum through Robin Symes, Limited.]

Sammlung E. und M. Kofler-Truniger, Luzern (June 7, 1964 to August 2, 1964)
  • Kunsthaus Zürich (Zurich), June 7 to August 2, 1964
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
Cleopatra's Egypt: Age of the Ptolemies (October 7, 1988 to September 10, 1989)
  • The Brooklyn Museum of Art (Brooklyn), October 7, 1988 to January 2, 1989
  • The Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit), February 15 to May 1, 1989
  • Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung (Munich), June 8 to September 10, 1989
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
Reflecting Antiquity: Modern Glass Inspired by Ancient Rome (October 18, 2007 to May 27, 2008) (30)
  • 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

"Important Recent Acquisitions." Journal of Glass Studies 4 (1962), p. 140, no. 5.

Sammlung E. und M. Kofler-Truniger. Exh. cat., Kunsthaus Zurich, June 7-August 2, 1964. (Basel: Kunsthaus Zurich, 1964), p. 47, no. 456; pl. 37.

Jucker, Hans. "'Promenade archeologique' durch die Austellung der Sammlung Kofler in Kunsthaus Zurich," Antike Kunst 8 (1965), pp. 40-55, p. 46, and passim; pls. 15, 16. 2 and .4; figs. 5, 6.

3000 Jahre Glaskunst von der antike bis zum Jugendstil, exh. cat. (Lucern: Kunsthalle, 1981), p. 33, full page ill.; p. 72, no. 226, ill.

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, p. 15, no. 8; p. 23, fig. 4; p. 99, cat. no. 4.

Christie's, London. Sale cat., March 5-6, 1985, lot 150.

"Acquisitions/1985." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 14 (1986), pp. 194-95, no. 65.

"Recent Important Acquisitions Made by Public and Private Collections in the United States and Abroad." Journal of Glass Studies 28 (1986), p. 98, no. 2.

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. 55, 83-84; cat. no. 36.

Bianchi, R. S. Cleopatra's Egypt. Age of the Ptolemies. Exh. cat., Brooklyn Museum. 1988, pp. 218-19, no. 111.

Painter, Kenneth, and David Whitehouse. "The Portland Vase." Journal of Glass Studies 32 (1990), pp. 150-53, cat. no. A8, figs. 111-115.

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, p. 25, no. 13.

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. 104.

Grimm, Gunter. Alexandria. Die erste Koenigstadt der hellenistischen Welt. Mainz: P. von Zabern, 1998, fig. 145.

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

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: 2002), p. 206.

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. 68, ill.

Wight, Karol and Swetnam-Burland, Molly. "The Iconography of the Cameo Glass Flask at the J. Paul Getty Museum." Kölner Jahrbuch 43. Band (2010), pp.839-846, figs. 1-5, pp. 839-846.

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

Lierke, Rosemarie. "Zur Herstellung der antiken Kameogläser." in Restaurierung und Archäologie 4, 2011, 75-105, 77, fig. 1.5, 91, fig. 27a.

Swetnam-Burland, Molly. Egypt in Italy: Visions of Egypt in Roman Imperial Culture (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 56-57, fig. 1.20, pl. 3.

Sofroniew, Alexandra. Household Gods: Private Devotion in Ancient Greece and Rome (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015), pp. 108-9, fig. 84.

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