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Kohl Container

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

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  • A work made of glass, blown technique.


5th-6th century


Byzantine; Eastern Mediterranean

About this artwork

Glass containers like this one were used to store kohl, a mineral compound used to dramatic effect to darken eyelids and eyelashes. Containers for cosmetics were fashioned out of a variety of materials in addition to glass, including metal, ivory, bone, and wood. In his writings, the third-century church father Saint Clement of Alexandria (d. 215) mentions white lead, charcoal, and even the “droppings of crocodiles” as common ingredients for cosmetics, although he must be regarded as a hostile witness at best. Nevertheless, the fact that his writings feature such detail about the use of makeup attests to its ubiquity.

Multicompartment kohl containers were formed when a hollow tube of glass was folded in half, thereby creating two tubular containers from one. Over time, the appearance of these vessels became more elaborate and whimsical.


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Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium




Kohl Container


Levant (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.

401 CE–600 CE


Glass, blown technique


12.3 × 5.5 × 4.5 cm (4 7/8 × 2 1/8 × 1 3/4 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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