Roman Rock Crystal Hydria
Antiquities - Roman
GBP (£) 20,000 - 30,000
EUR (€) 23,720 - 35,590
USD ($) 24,920 - 37,380
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1st century AD
A carved crystal vessel with tiered foot, drum-shaped body, steep shoulder, waisted neck; integral loop handles to the shoulder and strap handle with palmette detailing; with later, probably 17th-18th century AD silver-gilt lid and chain. 256 grams, 12.5cm (5"). Very fine condition.
Property of a European collector; formerly in the Albuquerque collection, Lisbon; acquired 1979-1998 from the Fernando Torres collection; previously acquired from Gawain McKinley, London, 1971 (Same collection as Christie's, Rockefeller Plaza, New York, 12 April 2016, lot 51).
Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, mentions a number of sources for rock crystal, such as Asia Minor, Cyprus, Portugal and the Alps, though he states the best came from India. The stone was fashioned into vessels in Bronze Age Greece as well as Cyprus, Asia Minor, Egypt and Mesopotamia. The use of rock crystal for vessels fell out of fashion in Classical Greece but was revived in the Hellenistic period where it was associated with the wealthy elite in such cities as Alexandria and Antioch.
In the Roman Empire rock crystal was highly valued and according to Pliny, Livia, the wife of Augustus, dedicated a block weighing one hundred and fifty pounds on the Capitol; he also mentions a wealthy Roman woman paying one hundred and fifty thousand sestertii for a single rock crystal dipper. Suetonius mentions that Nero had two crystal cups carved with Homeric scenes that he broke when he received the news that the Senate had called for his execution. The high value placed by the Romans on rock crystal can be seen in the high degree of carving that the surviving pieces have, and their relative rarity compared to other stone vessels.
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Lot No. 0102