The British Museum, which is the oldest national public museum in the world, still draws millions of visitors every year. There are more than 6 million artifacts in the museum and each one of these pieces has a story to tell to the visitors.
The Portland Vase is one such popular object in the British Museum. If you are planning to go on a British Museum private guided tour, then the Portland Vase might be in the list of objects that you wish to see while you are in this museum. However, you might not know that some of the facts that you may have heard about this ancient Roman vase might not be true.
Recent researches and studies conducted by archeologists and historians revealed a shocking conclusion that the method used for manufacturing the Portland Vase was not the traditionally assumed blown glass technique. Experts in antiques have been claiming for centuries that ancient Romans manufactured the vase and other Roman cameo glass artifacts were manufactured by using a blown glass technique.
Interestingly, Richard Whiteley, who is an Australian National University scientist and expert glassmaker, challenged the assumption recently. He argued that several cameo glass pieces were manufactured using a cold-processing technique, which is currently known as “pate de verre.”
This fact might come as a bit of shock to the ones who are interested in history. Roman cameo glass has been immensely influential and the number of Roman cameo glass plaques and vases that are known to exist is limited to just 15. The Portland Vase at the British Museum is regarded as the best-known piece of Roman cameo glass and it has also inspired several glass manufacturers and artisans over the years.
In a statement, Whiteley said, “It’s not about proving people wrong. It’s about correcting the historical record and reviving and restoring a technique lost for over 2,000 years.” He added, “I remember the moment I saw it, I said: Oh my god, this is extraordinary, because I also saw cold working marks in the surface which were inconsistent with the assumption that it was blown. I carve and shape glass with my hands, and have done for decades. The marks I saw were inconsistent with what I see in my work.” We can expect more details about this new theory and its authenticity in the coming days.