Thursday, September 10, 2009

Midterm Study Image 2009/8 Roman Lead Glazed

Rome, Three vessels, lead glaze, mold-made with relief, 1 c. BCE-1 c CE

Three Roman vessels, all with vitreous glaze. Double-handled cup with applied scales CE 20-70, said to be from Arles, France; Double-handled vase c. CE 70-100, said to be from Tharros; singled-handled cup decorated with imbricated leaves, from Asia Minor, 1st. C CE. Height (tallest) 17.5 cm.

Such wares were regarded as luxury items. (note differences in place of origin, date)This form of drinking cup, with deep body and ring handles with thumb-rests, is known as a skyphos. It was a popular shape, made in metal, pottery and glass during the later Hellenistic and early Roman periods (about 150 BC- AD 100). The cup is covered by a thick glaze of lead silicate glass, which firing conditions turned a deep rich green on the exterior, and honey brown on the interior. The process of producing and firing such vessels was complicated by the adhesive nature of the glaze, which would bond itself to anything it touched in the kiln. The solution lay in firing the vessels upside-down, supported from the inside by three small prongs on a tall stand. The marks left on the interior are small, but drops of congealed glaze which formed when the vessel was inverted appear on the rim. Lead-glazed pottery was one of the few genuinely glazed ceramics of antiquity. At first they were almost certainly made in imitation of metal tableware. The earliest mass-produced and mould-made lead-glazed wares were made in Tarsus, Smyrna and other cities in Asia Minor from the late second century BC. From the late first century BC production centres were established in Italy, in the northern Adriatic and around Rome and Naples. From there the technique was exported to the Empire, from the Danube provinces to Gaul, Germany and Britain. Height: 7 cm ; Restoration can be highly deceptive. At first sight and even under careful scrutiny, this drinking vessel appears entirely preserved. However, under low magnification using a microscope, brush marks are visible on the handles. Under ultraviolet (UV) light, the two handles fluoresce a bright, light blue, showing that they had been painted, whereas the rest of the vessel was glazed. The paint indicates that the handles had been restored. It is not possible to tell from visual examination whether the handles are completely restored or if they are partly restored with heavy over-painting. This seems to be an example of intentional faking. However, the appearance of the handles is thought to be representative of how they may have originally looked. Since the restoration was not causing any damage to the pottery it was not removed. S. Buys and V. Oakley, The conservation and restoration of ceramics (Oxford, Butterworth Heinemann, 1993).

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