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Perfume Flask with Egyptian Motifs
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Unknown
Roman, Rome, about 25 B.C. - 25 A.D.
Cameo glass
3 x 1 5/8 in.
85.AF.84

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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.