University of Sussex
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Late antique gold glass in the British Museum

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:47 authored by Daniel Thomas Howells
The British Museum holds one of the largest and most important collections of Late Antique gold glasses in the world, numbering over fifty pieces. However, the collection has never been fully examined or analysed and the standard reference works on the medium are well over 100 years old. This thesis uses the British Museum collection to offer a new and in-depth case study of gold glass which reconsiders the traditional but untested set of interpretations that have been in circulation since the mid-nineteenth century and before. Chapter One examines the history of gold glass scholarship from the late sixteenth century up until the present day. This serves to demonstrate where many of the frequently repeated assumptions regarding gold glass have their roots. Chapter Two gives a brief account of scholarship focusing on the British Museum collection. It then moves on to examine in detail the formation of the collection itself in the context of changing nineteenth-century attitudes to Late Antique art. Chapter Three for the first time defines the various sub-types of gold glass identifiable in the British Museum collection and incorporates a discussion of the first significant program of scientific analysis to be carried out on the medium. Chapter Four concentrates on the manufacture of gold glass and includes a detailed program of experimental reproduction. Chapters Five to Eight discuss in detail the range of iconography appearing on the gold glasses in the British Museum collection, reflective of the medium as a whole. Lastly, after examining the pattern of gold glass distribution and context, Chapter Nine draws together the preceding analysis to explore the possible workshop identity and chronology. The final Chapter concludes as to the function of gold glass in Late Antiquity.


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  • Art History Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • dphil


  • eng


University of Sussex

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