Portland vase

Portland vase, a Roman glass vase, known also as the Barberini vase. It is an unusually fine work of the late Augustan era (early 1st cent. B.C.). About 10 in. (25 cm) high and 22 in. (56 cm) in circumference, it is made of a deep, violet-blue glass overlaid with opaque, white glass into which figures are cut in cameo relief. The mythological scene probably represents Peleus and Thetis accompanied by Poseidon on one side and Aphrodite on the other; on the bottom there is a bust of a young man in a Phrygian cap, possibly Paris. The vase, found in an ancient marble sarcophagus excavated at Monte del Grano near Rome in the pontificate of Urban VIII (1623–44), was placed in the palace of the Barberini family. Sold c.1782, it passed through several hands until acquired by the Duke of Portland. It was lent in 1810 to the British Museum. While on loan it was vandalized and completely shattered (1845) but was so skillfully reconstructed that little trace of the destruction remains. In 1945 it was bought by the British Museum. The vase has been widely reproduced and copied; the most famous replicas were made (c.1789) in jasper ware by Josiah Wedgwood.

See W. Mankowitz, The Portland Vase and the Wedgwood Copies (1954).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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