SPECIALISTS at Bonhams have just announced that they have identified a magnificent Roman cameo glass vase, which may be the most important of its kind in the world.
Strikingly similar to the Portland Vase, one of the British
Museum's greatest treasures, it is larger, in better condition and
with superior decoration, say Bonhams.
Chantelle Rountree, head of antiquities at Bonhams, said: "It is
of major international importance. Academically and artistically it
is priceless. Scholars will be evaluating this find for
The vase dates from between late First Century B.C. to early
First Century A.D and stands 13in (33.5cm) high. Only 15 other
Roman cameo glass vases and plaques are known to exist today.
These very rare vessels were highly artistic, luxury items,
produced by the Roman Empire's most skilled craftsmen. They are
formed from two layers of glass - cobalt blue with a layer of white
on top - which is cut down after cooling to create the cameo-style
Items of this kind were produced, it is thought, within a period
of only two generations. They would have been owned by
distinguished Roman families.
Until now, the most famous example has been the Portland Vase,
held by the British Museum. This is smaller, standing at only 9in
(24cm) high. It is also missing its base and has been restored
The recently identified vase is also more complex than others of
its kind, being decorated with around 30 figures and a battle scene
around the lower register. By comparison, the Portland vase has
just seven figures.
Bonhams' experts believe that this magnificent artefact could
rewrite the history books on cameo vases. Unlike the Portland Vase,
it still has its base and lower register and will therefore add
significantly to the archaeological understanding of these
The vase is thought to have resided in a private European
collection for some time. The collector is a long-term client of
In co-operation with leading experts in the field and with the
present owner of the vase, Bonhams say they will be carrying out
detailed research over the coming months into the historical
background of the vase and its miraculous survival as well as into
its more recent history and chain of ownership.
The vase was presented publicly for the first time at a the 18th
Congress of the International Association for the History of Glass
at Thessaloniki in Greece in September, where it was viewed by
around 200 of the world's leading glass specialists.
"The presentation created huge excitement among delegates, who
were drawn from the world's leading museums and cultural
institutions," said a Bonhams spokesman, "and there is no doubt
about its authenticity."