Published: May 18, 2018 By

Catalogue Entry Photograph of a glass vessel with a round body and relatively short neck that flares into a horizontal, disk-shaped mouth, from the side against a neutral gray background.

From the Catalogue of Ancient Glass in the University of Colorado Museum

Gift of H. Medill Sarkisian and Justine Sarkisian Rodriguez (1979)
Transferred to CU Art Museum (2008)
Height: 8.9 cm
Diameter (max.): 6.6 cm
Roman, 3rd century C.E.

Classification: Harden Fabric 4

Description: Wide, flat lip with short neck. Constriction at base of neck. Bulbous body with rounded base. Eight short ribs or fins encircle body at irregular vertical positions. Green. Some iridescence and flaking. Blown, ribs tweezed.

Comment: The CU collection contains another example of a Roman sprinkler. The shape of this sprinkler is closest to Stern 2001, no. 134, and the ribs resemble those of Stern 2001, no. 136.


In the CU Art Museum's Roman glass collection, there are multiple vessels made from green glass. The green appears in varying shades, depending on the ingredients or extent of weathering. The color of this sprinkler was most likely caused by a small amount of iron in the fabric's ingredients. Green-tinted glass was made by including one- to three-percent of iron in the mix of sand and nitrate. These were all mixed and melted in a hot kiln. We cannot know how much ancient Roman glassmakers could control the levels of tint, but they were aware of which ingredients resulted in which colors (1).

This vessel was free-blown, without a mold or core. When the glassworker finished shaping the sprinkler, she or he used tweezers to pull at the pliable glass, forming the protruding ribs on the body (2). The shape of this sprinkler is perfect for its use. It was intended to hold perfume and scented oils for cosmetic purposes. The wide, flaring lip over the narrow, constricted neck made it possible to control the flow of liquid being dispensed. A Roman man or woman could have easily tipped the glass to only release one or two drops at a time without accidentally dousing themselves in perfume.


  1. Donald B. Harden, Roman Glass from Karanis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1936): 6-9.
  2. E. Marianne Stern, Roman, Byzantine and Early Medieval Glass (New York: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2001): 248-250


  • Stern, E. M. Roman, Byzantine, and Early Medieval Glass: 10 BCE-700 CE: The Ernesto Wolf Collection. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2001.