Gold-Glass in Late Antiquity

Authored by: Susan Walker

The Routledge Handbook of Early Christian Art

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138857223
eBook ISBN: 9781315718835
Adobe ISBN:


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Gold-glass, in which gold-leaf decoration was applied to glass medallions, plaques and vessels, enjoyed a renaissance from the third to the fifth centuries ce. In this chapter the history of ancient gold-glass is briefly traced, along with the discovery of late antique gold-glass, principally in the catacombs of Rome. Scholarship on gold-glass is reviewed. Recent XRF analysis of the chemistry of the decolorants used to make the glass transparent suggests a sequence of production. The groups within the sequence correspond with changes in product and social usage. Developments in iconography and textual decoration reflect the growing influence of the church as an institution. Isotopic analysis demonstrates how gold-glass objects were made as part of a two-stage process in which raw glass was exported from Syria-Palestine and Egypt to Rome, where the glass was cast or blown into the required shape and decorated with gold-leaf.

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