Two-handled jar

3rd–4th c. CEglass3 7/8 in. × 3 1/4 in. (9.8 cm. × 8.3 cm.)

Gift of the Misses Harriet Sarah and Mary Sophia Walker


This small jar is a fine example of the blown-glass forms produced on Cyprus in the late Roman period. Cypriot glassblowers favored clean lines and simple forms, unlike many of the vessels produced on the coast of Roman Syria where artisans were often more experimental with applied decorations. This vessel, blown in a green-yellow glass, has a narrow neck and carefully modelled rim. Two handles made of blue-green glass were attached after the vessel was blown. The iridescence on the body of the jar is an artifact of decay, as minerals from the glass leach to the surface creating a colorful sheen. In the nineteenth century, the iridescence evident on most ancient glass discovered in excavations came to be appreciated and replicated by major glass producers like Louis Comfort Tiffany.

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.

—Sean P. Burrus


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.

Mary Sophia Walker and Harriet Sarah Walker

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.

Region: Cyprus See all 21
Map of Mediterranean Sea with the Cyprus highlighted.