Height - 8 cm
Width - 15.5 cm


Excellent condition


Baidun Family Collection





A Byzantine Flat Alabaster Flask with a Lid


This superb Byzantine alabaster flask displays a very low-profile, wide-based design with longitudinal ridging and a low, double-rimmed neck with flaring mouth. This shape is unusual in itself, and it is doubly so for being carved from a singled block of alabaster. The function of the piece is uncertain: the volume that could be held is relatively low, implying that it must have possessed a high integral worth. While it should be possible to detect trace elements in this relatively porous stone using XRF technology, the size and proportions – not to mention the amount of work necessary to hand-carve such an ornate container – suggest that it may have been perfume (or perfume oil), a medical substance (less likely) or a cosmetic unguent of some sort. Art of the Byzantine Empire was a stylistic continuation of the Late Roman period, with increasingly prevalent iconographic representations of Christian themes. While the Byzantine art tradition was rooted in the Roman Empire, however, it developed for almost 800 years in relative isolation, while continuing to absorb and refine artistic traditions from the regions over which it had influence. The manner in which Byzantine icons were painted – which remains almost unaltered in the orthodox Greek, Ethiopian and Russian churches – revolutionised western art traditions and proved to be absolutely fundamental to the evolution of the Renaissance following the sack of Byzantium by European forces during the third crusade in 1204. The Byzantines used their wide trade networks to produce exceptional metalwork, parchment illuminations, glassware, ivory/bone-carving, ceramics and – as in the present case – ground stone artefacts, all of which are noted for their extreme compositional refinement and perfection of execution. This is a genuinely exceptional piece of ancient art