The Morgan Cup
Listen as curator David Whitehouse describes the Morgan cup. The rarest and most elaborate luxury vessels of the early Roman Empire are cameo glasses. These objects were inspired by relief-cut gems of banded semiprecious stones, such as onyx. Glassmakers cased (covered) objects of one color with one or more layers of glass of different colors, with opaque white on translucent deep blue being the most popular combination. The layered "blank" was given to a lapidary for carving, cutting, and polishing. The process required great skill and considerable time. The Morgan Cup (once owned by J. Pierpont Morgan), is decorated with a continuous frieze depicting a religious ceremony at a rural shrine. One side shows a female approaching a statue of Silenus. Women who wanted to become pregnant sometimes invoked the help of the god Dionysus, for whom Silenus, his tutor, here acts as proxy.