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Alabastron (Container for Scented Oil)

A work made of glass, mosaic glass technique.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of glass, mosaic glass technique.


Early 2nd-1st century BCE


Late Hellenistic or early Roman; eastern Mediterranean

About this artwork

Containers like this one were used to store precious oils. The flaring rim functioned as an applicator to spread the thick, scented oil over the skin; while the vessel itself was designed to fit comfortably in the user’s hand. In this particularly lavish example, gold leaf was sandwiched between layers of colorless glass and worked into wavy bands with other colored canes.

Initially affordable among only the wealthy, glass was used widely in the Roman world to create a variety of everyday objects such as those displayed here, including delicate cosmetic containers that held perfumes and oils and various forms of tableware designed for serving food and drink.


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Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Ancient Eastern Mediterranean


Alabastron (Container for Scented Oil)


Eastern Mediterranean Region (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

200 BCE–1 CE


Glass, mosaic glass technique


12 × 2.2 × 2.2 cm (3 1/2 × 7/8 × 7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Theodore W. and Frances S. Robinson

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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