Corning, NY—The Corning Museum of Glass has acquired two significant works– an opaque turquoise portrait inlay of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and a Late Roman bowl featuring a colorful inlaid Nilotic scene. Preserved for over three millennia, these works showcase the ingenuity and creativity of ancient glassmakers.
“These rare and exceptionally beautiful works bring a new level of excellence to a collection already noted for its depth and aesthetic quality,” stated Karol Wight, executive director. “They are important and powerful not only as works of art, but as windows for our visitors to see into the lives, tastes, and ideas of ancient societies.” Wight, an internationally renowned specialist in Roman glass and the Museum’s curator of ancient and Islamic glass, oversees the strategic growth of the Museum’s ancient glass collections.
The Roman bowl, which dates from the 4th-5th century A.D., has never been published or publicly displayed and is the only complete or nearly complete example of this type of inlaid vessel. Against a background of a dark, aubergine glass, a fantastic Nile Valley landscape with colorful birds, an insect, plants, and flowers unfolds across the surface of bowl’s interior. The birds, among them a flamingo, a heron, ducks, and a partridge, are all meant to be seen from a single vantage point, and are shown in an aquatic environment. Hemispherical bowls of this nature were often used to consume wine. When filled with liquid, the bowl’s decorative scheme would have been enhanced, as if the birds and flowers were actually situated within a watery landscape.
Preserved from around about 1353–1336 B.C., the highly stylized portrait of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten reflects the finest level of craftsmanship from this period. The father of King Tutankhamen, Akhenaten moved the capital from Thebes to the site of Amarna, where an entire city rose from the %%sands%%. The group of artists whose work decorated the new capital broke from the established traditional style of Egyptian art, which was idealized and severely formal. Their depiction of the human form was exaggerated, with %%sagging%% bellies, thin arms and legs, sumptuous lips, long oval eyes, and high, carefully carved cheekbones. These characteristics are present in the inlay acquired by the Corning Museum, a blue portrait featuring a long neck, high cheekbone, full lips, and long, slanted eye.
Both works complement and enhance the Museum’s current holdings in these areas. The collection includes fragments from vessels similar to the Roman bowl as well as a number of Egyptian inlays, none of which are royal portraits. Overall, the antiquities collection includes many fine examples of vessels, jewelry, and sculptural objects from ancient Egypt and Rome, as well as Western Asia and the Hellenistic world of the eastern Mediterranean.