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Two 19th-Century Forgeries of Gold Glasses in The Corning Museum of Glass

All About Glass

In 1927, Gustavus Eisen published a group of "gold glasses" that he attributed to the period between the late third and sixth centuries A.D.1 These objects, however, have long been recognized as forgeries. Examples were offered to the British Museum in 1909, but they failed to impress O. M. Dalton, the keeper of the Department of British and Medieval Antiquities, who described them as "a collection of Gilded glasses having all the appearance of being false...."2 Dalton's opinion has been confirmed by several scholars, including Fritz Fremersdorf and Axel von Saldern.3 In 1977, Sidney M. Goldstein drew attention to two examples in The Corning Museum of Glass, and in 1980, Susan B. Matheson published six others in the Yale University Art Gallery, dating them to the late 19th or early 20th century.4 The entire group was reviewed in 1984 by Renate Pillinger, who showed that they were made in the 19th century.5 This note contains descriptions of the objects at Corning and clarifies a misunderstanding about the identity of the first known owner of many of the forgeries.

Figure 11. Fragment with Christ.6
H. 2.5 cm, D. (base-ring) 4.2 cm.
(a) Greenish colorless; bubbly, with much cord and black stone; some scale. Blown, tooled, and cold-painted. (b) Colorless.
(a)Bottom and tubular base-ring of 2nd- to 3rd-century A.D. beaker; at center of floor: head of Christ painted in opaque white, with highlights and details in black, wearing red garment and with gold mandorla and cross behind; on underside of base: red lozenge-shaped shield outlined in black and bearing gold Chi-rho. (b) Disk with ground edges; attached with adhesive to underside of (a).
(a) Fragment; wall broken on all sides. Patches of thick, iridescent weathering; pitted. (b) Intact. Patches of weathering.

Figure 22. Fragment with Christ as the Good Shepherd.7
60.3.7 a, b. Gift of Fahim Kouchakji
(a) L. 4.9 cm; (b) L. 3.7 cm.
(a) Colorless, bubbly. Blown, painted. (b) Colorless, bubbly. Blown, tooled, edges ground attached to (a) with adhesive.
Fragment: composite. (a) Lower part of body and base of 1st- to 2nd-century A.D. beaker with thickened floor and slight kick. Decoration on underside: Christ depicted as the Good Shepherd; within double concentric black circle, bust of Christ with nimbus and radiating cross, holding reclining lamb; in background, inscription "OR/CC PAST MEA," presumably for [E}cc[e} pastor mea [sic] ("Behold my shepherd"), when read from inside vessel. Decorations outlined in black and filled with gold. (b) Bottom of small cup or beaker of 1st or 2nd century A.D., with tubular base-ring. Upper surface ground in order to attach it to lower surface of (a).
(a) Fragment. Broken in half and repaired. Thin, iridescent weathering on exterior. (b) Fragment. Broken in several pieces, one triangular area missing. Thick, white, iridescent weathering on exterior.


All of the objects in the group have several features in common, including the reuse of fragments of Roman vessels, the application of cold-painted decoration, and the presence of "cover glasses" attached with an adhesive to protect the ornament. Stylistically, there are frequent anachronisms (Goldstein refers to the "rather Romanesque" appearance of Christ on the second Corning object), and, as Fremersdorf noted, some of the Latin inscriptions contain elementary mistakes such as "SANTVS" (for SANCTVS), "PARCE VOBISCO" (for PAX VOBISCVM), and "PASTOR MEA'' (for PASTOR MEVS).8

Eisen's discussion contains information that allows us to establish the latest possible date for the manufacture of many of these objects. He wrote:

Of the thirty specimens of this series known to the author, twenty-two or more belonged once in the collection of Count Bartholomeo [sic] Borghesi, the well-known numismatist and collector in Rome. According to him they had been found in the Catacombs of Rome in 1849, a time when Rome was a republic and when the finder of antiques could dispose of them as he pleased without restrictions. After the death of Count Borghesi they were inherited by his daughter, Countess Giacomo Manzoni, whose husband was also a student and collector of art objects. Finally they were procured by Professor Mariano Rocchi, painter and collector, who published and illustrated two specimens in his Collection of Objects of Art and Antiquities. Rome, 1909, pages 9 and 10. Both Count Manzoni and Professor Rocchi searched the private papers of Count Borghesi for some references to the exact place where the specimens had been found , but without success.9

The identity of "Bartholomeo Borghesi" seems to have confused Dalton, who noted that the objects offered to his department "were in cases with G. M. and a coronet, and had been in the Collection of Count G. Manzoni & his uncle Prince Borghese, since 1848."10 Bartolomeo Borghesi (1781–1 860) was not a member of the Borghese family, the heads of which bore the title "prince of Montecompatri."11 He was a distinguished scholar who, in addition to being a well-known numismatist, was one of the founders of Roman epigraphy. Indeed, when Mommsen published his Inscriptiones Regni Neapolitani Latinae (1852), the forerunner of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, he dedicated it to Borghesi, addressing him as his magistro, patrono, amico.12

The identification of Borghesi as the first known owner of gold glasses of this type establishes that at least 22 of them were made in or before 1860, the year of his death (he is said to have acquired them in 1848 or 1849). Unfortunately, this does nothing to establish where they were made, apart from indicating that they are almost certainly Italian. Goldstein and Matheson described them as probably Venetian,l3 but since assembling the objects did not involve working with hot glass, there is no reason to suppose that they were made by glassworkers. They may have been produced in Rome, the alleged find-place, but Eisen was mistaken when he stated that Borghesi lived there. In 1821, Borghesi made his home in the tiny central Italian state of San Marino, where he lived until his death.14 There seems to be no record of where he acquired his gold glasses. The origin of the objects, therefore, is still unknown, although it is reasonable to suppose that they were made in Italy.

This article was published in the Journal of Glass Studies, Vol. 36 (1994), 133–135.

1. Gustavus A. Eisen, assisted by Fahim Kouchakji, Glass. Its Origin, History, Chronology, Technic and Classification to the Sixteenth Century, New York: William Edwin Rudge, 1927, v. 2, pp. 571–581.

2. Renate Pillinger, Studien zu römischen Zwischengoldgläser I: Geschichte der Technik und das Problem der Authentizität(Denkschriften der phil. -hist. Klasse der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, v. 110), Vienna: the academy, 1984, p. 19.

3. Fritz Fremersdorf, Die römischen Gläser mit Schliff, Bemalung und Gold-auflagen aus Köln (Die Denkmäler des römischen Köln, v. 8), Cologne: Verlag der Lowe, 1967, Textband, p. 219, Tafelband, pls. 304–307; Axel von Saldern, "Originals—Reproductions—Fakes," Annales du 5e Congrès Internationale d'Etude Historique du Verre (Prague, 6–11 juillet 1970), Liège: Association lnternationale pour l'Histoire du Verre, 1972, pp. 299–318, esp. footnote on p. 315.

4. Sidney M. Goldstein, "Forgeries and Reproductions of Ancient Glass in Corning," Journal of Glass Studies, v. 19, 1977, pp. 40–62, esp. p. 59, fig. 44; Susan B. Matheson, Ancient Glass in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven: the gallery, 1980, pp. 142–144, nos. A13–A18.

5. Pillinger [note 2], pp. 15–26.

6. Goldstein [note 4], p. 59, fig. 44; Pillinger [note 2], color pl. 5, figs. 53–54.

7. Goldstein [note 4], p. 59, fig. 44; Pillinger [note 2], color pl. 5, figs. 53–54. This object may be the same as the example decorated with "the Good Shepherd, with the lamb in his arms and the letters PASTOR MEUS," which was in Kouchakji's possession in 1927 (Eisen [note 1] , p. 581).

8. Fremersdorf [note 3], p. 219.

9. Eisen [note 1], p. 573.

10. Pillinger [note 2], p. 19.

11. None of the 19th-century Borghese princes was named Bartolomeo; they were Camillo (d. 1832), Francesco (d. 1839), Marcantonio (d. 1866), and Paolo (d. 1920).

12. G. L. Beccaria, "Borghesi, Bartolomeo (Bartolino) ," in Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, v. 12, Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia ltaliana, 1970, pp. 624–646. Although Borghesi neither inherited nor was granted a title, from about 1833 he was commonly addressed as "Count." Eisen was incorrect in stating that Countess Giacomo Manzoni was Borghesi's daughter. Borghesi never married. In 1832, he adopted his nephew Pietro Lugaresi. Later, perhaps because Pietro had no surviving offspring, he changed his will in favor of the children of his niece Luigia Lugaresi, and Giacomo Manzoni (ibid., p. 638). Countess Manzoni, therefore, was Borghesi's niece. Giacomo Manzoni was more than "a student and collector of art objects" (Eisen [note 1], p. 573); in addition to being a well-known politician, he was a bibliophile with an outstanding library.

13. Matheson [note 4], p. 142.

14. Beccaria [note 12].

Published on March 20, 2013