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Virtual Egyptian Museum.

(The California Institute of World Archaeology (CIWA)) Senusret Collection.

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Mosaic bead with three faces, 1-100 AD

Dating: 1 AD100 AD
Origin: Egypt,
Material: Glass (all types)
Physical: 1.5cm. (.6 in.) - 5 g. (.2 oz.)
Catalog: GLS.VS.01009

This spherical mosaic face bead presents the face of a man, repeated three times around the side of the bead. The slices of mosaic bar were applied alternating with squares of solid color (red, then white, then red again), over a solid green bead held on a mandrel. One of the three mosaics was badly distorted, presumably during the marvering operation. The subject is portrayed with white skin, tightly curled dark hair, thin red lips, almond-shaped eyes, and the usual continuous brow-nose-brow single line. The face floats on a dark (purple?) background within a thin white frame over a translucent blue surround. This type of face bead is typical of first century AD eastern Mediterranean work, probably from Egypt.

A bead with virtually identical facial features is found at the Israel Museum under #77.12.357, dated to 1st century AD, eastern Mediterranean. . . . pattern of three faces, alternating with geometrical patterns around the bead center; the faces are white . . . and have delicate features and curly hair outlined in black (?) and a mouth and a high collar (?) in brownish red. . . (Spaer 2001:123, #205).

A bead in the Ernesto Wolf collection displays the face of a woman on the same green color bead Spherical mosaic face bead. Perhaps made in Egypt. First century AD. Height 1.3 cm; diameter 1.48 cm. Translucent to opaque green glass and with sections of one mosaic composite bar. Around center of bead four square mosaic sections arranged in a band, each showing the same near circular frontal female mask. . . a broad rectangle outlines the nose and continues on either side as a straight horizontal line indicating the eyebrows (Stern and Schlick-Nolte 1994:410-411, #149,150).

Face Beads
With face beads, ancient craftsmen have their turn at dazzling us with their technological abilities. Face beads have for us the same magic trick how did you do that? appeal that our photographs would have to them. How did they do that? We believe that the design was painstakingly created by arranging together rods of colored glass into a large bundle. The miniaturization was produced by heating the glass until soft, which fused all the rods together, and then drawing the large bundle into a thin rod. What you see on the bead is a thin slice of that rod applied on a base bead.
Stern and Shlick-Nolte (1994:410) write that: Beads decorated with faces have been classified by Beck (1927), Selling (1942) and Stout (1986). There are two groups: an early one, decorated with a single band of faces or busts, and a late group dated fourth to fifth century AD, decorated with faces, checkers, and stars in three registers. . . Early face beads have been found in first century AD contexts. . .

Mosaic glass
The concept of mosaic glass encompasses a range of techniques that all involve arranging glass of different colors together, with sufficient heat to cause fusing of the glass but not so much that the colors mix. When this mosaic concept is used together with the drawing techniques made possible by the ductility of glass, the initial arrangement is miniaturized.
The manufacture of twisted or reticella canes is a simple example of mosaic glass and drawing principles. Stern and Shlick-Nolte (1994:54) explain: The craftsman could make [twisted canes] by heating two or three monochrome canes and twisting them. A method now common is to pick up, one after the other, two or three chunks of color of roughly the same size and to shape them in a cone. Because the glassworker rotates the cone while he draws the glass, the colors twist around each other. . . Reticella cane is drawn from a hot cone-shaped bit of glass in the same manner as for monochrome cane, but before the glass is drawn, the glassworker marvers [to marver: to press or roll softened glass on a smooth surface to smooth it or to consolidate applications] one or more monochrome canes of contrasting color into the surface of the cone. . . Depending on the placing of the canes on the cone and the speed with which the cone is rotated, intricate lace patterns can be achieved. . .
Making canes with concentric colors, called overlay cane, such as is used in mosaic eye beads, requires a completely different method. Again, Stern and Shlick-Nolte (1994:56) explain: To make an overlay cane, one works from the center out, applying layers of glass for each ring of color. First, a chunk of preheated glass is softened and shaped into a cylinder for the core or center of the design. A second chunk or bit of contrasting color is heated on a second metal rod, shaped, and applied to the cylinder on the first tool. There are various ways to do this. . . 1. A trail is wound spirally around the cylinder. . . 2. A thick trail is draped lengthwise onto the cylinder and pinched off at the end of the cylinder, then a second trail is applied next to the first, and so forth until the whole cylinder is covered with trails of color. . . 3. the chunk of glass on the second tool is shaped into an inverted cone, fused to the cylinder on the first tool, and then the inverted cone is separated from the second tool and marvered onto the cylinder. . . When all the colors have been applied, a thick cylinder results that is heated thoroughly and lengthened (drawn). . .
Mosaic bars with patterns such as rosettes or faces were achieved by cold bundling in which pre-made bars or chunks are arranged when cold, bundled, and heated until the glass fuses. In the case of mosaic bars, the fused glass is shaped by marvering, and then drawn to miniaturize the design. Slices are obtained from the bars, which can then be used as inlays.
Mosaic glass appears to have been invented in Egypt, and Egyptian craftsmen remained masters of this technique, which became common during the first century BC.

Bibliography (for this item):
Spaer, Maud
2001 Ancient glass in the Israel Museum: beads and other small objects. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. (123 #205)

Stern, E. Marianne, and Birgit Schlick-Nolte
1994 Early Glass of the Ancient World 1600 BC - AD 50 Ernesto Wolf Collection. Gerd Hatje, Ostfildern, Germany. (411 # 150 410 # 149)

Bibliography (on Face Beads):
Stern, E. Marianne, and Birgit Schlick-Nolte
1994 Early Glass of the Ancient World 1600 BC - AD 50 Ernesto Wolf Collection. Gerd Hatje, Ostfildern, Germany. (410)

Bibliography (on Mosaic glass):
Stern, E. Marianne, and Birgit Schlick-Nolte
1994 Early Glass of the Ancient World 1600 BC - AD 50 Ernesto Wolf Collection. Gerd Hatje, Ostfildern, Germany.