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Perfume Vessels

Small containers were made as luxury items to store (and display) perfumes and cosmetics. Certain shapes—such as the amphoriskos (or "small amphora")—were particularly popular, and were made in a variety of media from terracotta to glass. Color and decoration of these vessels were manipulated freely: some are decorated with colorful patterns, while others emphasize the texture and color of the material.  Media and form were no doubt important factors in the popularity of luxury vessels, but the overall elegance and display of skillfulness would been the more significant goal.

The interplay between different media can be seen with glass vessels. Glass was first imported to the Mediterranean region from the Near East as early as 2500 BCE, and it remained valuable throughout the Classical period. In the Roman period, however, the technique of glass blowing greatly expanded both the potential and accessibility of the material. Although naturally colored (light blue-green) blown glass was used for simple storage vessels and other household objects, including window panes, vibrantly colored glass continued to be sought after for luxury vessels.  These vessels often imitated other media: some opaque glass was carefully marbled  to resemble striated stone, such as agate, while mosaic glass showcased combinations of color that are reminiscent of vibrant gems.  Such variations in color and transparency resulted in a wide range of transitory visual effects that transformed the appearance of a vessel as light interacted with it. These effects could change again depending on the density and amount of the vessel’s contents.