Bonham’s has announced that they’ve received a uniquely complete and intricate Roman cameo glass vase.
Roman cameo glass is extremely rare — there are only 15 known pieces — and the previous top-of-the-line item was the beautiful Portland vase which is missing its base and has only 7 carved figures on the surface. This complete vase has 30 figures.
It dates from somewhere between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D., and stands a dramatic 13 inches (33.5 cm) high.
This type of vase is formed from two layers of cobalt blue glass with a layer of white on top which is cut down after cooling to create the cameo-style decoration.
A spokesman added: “Items of this kind were produced, it is thought, within a period of only two generations. […]
The recently identified vase is also said to be more complex than others of its kind Bonhams experts believe that this magnificent artefact could rewrite the history books on cameo vases.
Unlike the Portland vase, it still has its base and lower register and will therefore add significantly to the archaeological understanding of these vessels.
It’s not for sale. Yet. The owner is a “private European collector” who is currently passing it around various museums and experts for further study.
Giant red flag right there. Something’s not kosher about this, most likely a little something called loot. A piece of this stature doesn’t come out of nowhere. If it had been in any known collections, even private ones, somebody would have documented it. For it to surface now with no history of ownership … Well, it doesn’t bode well.
It could be perfectly legitimate. It could have been kept a secret in some reclusive millionaire’s castle for hundreds of years. It’s just that those kinds of stories tend to spring from the pages of novels rather than newspapers.
For Bonham’s to have been allowed to publicize it suggests they’re priming the market for a major sale. In this day and age, the old “anonymous private collector” shtick might not fly, especially not with such an extraordinary piece.