Gift of the Misses Harriet Sarah and Mary Sophia Walker1894.26
This beautiful glass vessel well represents the skill of the glassblowers of Tyre on the coast of Roman Syria, where the technique of blown glass was invented in the first century BCE. A renowned production center for glass vessels in the ancient world, Tyre’s artisans produced an array of intricate and innovative forms, most commonly in the rich green seen here. This small jug imitates the shape of larger ceramic vessels called oinochoe that were used for serving wines, but this piece and similarly sized vessels were probably used for pouring perfumes or precious oils, a task the trefoil shape of the rim would have facilitated. The single handle and the fine wrapped decoration of the neck were applied after initial blowing of the vessel.
This vessel is one of thirty-seven glass vessels donated by the sisters Mary Sophia (1839–1904) and Harriet Sarah Walker (1844–1898), on the completion of the Walker Art Building in 1894. The success of the project was indebted to the sisters’ vision of a building devoted “solely to art purposes,” their selection of the architect Charles McKim, and their deep involvement with every aspect of the building’s design. Recognizing the need for art objects of exceptional quality for students at Bowdoin to study, the sisters seeded the Museum collections with many important gifts, both from their own collections and newly acquired works for the occasion.
The glass vessels the sisters acquired for the Museum fall into the latter category and were purchased from the Thomas B. Clarke Fine Arts gallery in New York City. They were reported to be from three sources: German excavations at Limassol in Cyprus in the 1880s, the excavations of Alessandro Palma di Cesnola, also on Cyprus, and from local (unexcavated) collections in and around the city of Tyre in Lebanon. As such, the Walker glass collection represents an excellent cross-section of ancient glass arts, particularly of Roman glass production in the eastern Mediterranean.
Before 1894, likely excavated in Greece, possibly Rhodes; 1894, sold to Mary Sophia Walker by a Mr. Morgan on behalf of the Thomas B. Clarke Fine Arts Gallery, New York; 1894, acquired by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, gift from Harriet Sarah and Mary Sophia Walker, Brunswick.
Donors of the Walker Art Building as well as a significant collection of art and antiquities, Mary Sophia Walker (1839–1904) and Harriet Sarah Walker (1844–1898) were among the most significant benefactors in the development of the art collection at Bowdoin.