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Discovering the Blue Vase of Pompeii

Discovered at Pompeii on December 29, 1837, in the presence of King Ferdinand II, the Blue Vase is regarded by many to be the Naples National Archaeological Museum‘s most prized possession.

The Blue Vase is said to have been found in the House of the Mosaic Columns during a Royal inspection. Some have suggested it was planted to impress the noble visitors. Apparently, it was not uncommon for excavators to inhume their finds and wait for an opportune time to unearth the treasure in order to keep their patrons excited and the funds coming in.

Extremely fragile, Imperial Roman cameo glass vases are terrifically rare; only a handful survive. Perhaps the most famous specimen is the so-called Portland Vase in the British Museum.

They were made by fusing different colored sheets of glass together in a furnace. After cooling, the top layer was etched away, creating designs that stand out from the contrasting background. As with the Blue Vase, the most common color combination was the use of an opaque white over a translucent cobalt blue.

Beneath each handle of the Blue Vase the iconography depicts a group of pudgy putti gaily harvesting grapes for winemaking and playing musical instruments. Separating the two scenes are highly elaborate grape vines bearing clusters of fruit and some birds. The vines appear to be springing like antlers from the head of Silenus, the trusty companion of Dionysus, the god of wine. Circling the vessel’s base are flora and fauna from the Mediterranean. Fittingly, the glass vessel is shaped like a wine amphora.

Undoubtably the work of master craftsmen, this priceless masterpiece was truly a wonder to behold.

National Archaeological Museum is away only a few minutes walk from our apartment!

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