Glass-paste intaglio with cupids making perfume (unguentarii)

Imperial Period
1st century A.D.


Overall: 3.3 x 3.7 x 0.4 cm (1 5/16 x 1 7/16 x 3/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Jewelry, The Ancient World



Explicit details of perfume manufacturing are represented in three registers on this glass intaglio. Six winged erotes (cupids or amorini) are shown in the production of perfume, an industry that is well known in Campania (especially Capua).

In the top register, two erotes raise their mallets to hammer wedges for the oil press (so-called wedge press) that is designed explicitly for extracting fine oils needed in the production of perfumes. The oil is coming out of the press into a large bowl. In the middle register, two other erotes are off to the side pounding something, presumably the flowers (?) in a mortar. At the bottom, an eros is seated and mixing a large cauldron, while another is crouching beside a cauldron/mortar heating on a brazier. These scenes follow closely in their detail several wall paintings from Pompeian houses. To the right a large herm overlooks the scene and suggests it takes place outdoors.


By date unknown: Count Michel Tyszkiewicz Collection; 1898: auction of the M. Tyszkiewicz Collection, Hotel des Commissaires-Priseurs, 9 rue Drouot, Paris, June 8-10, lot 80; 1898: with Edward Perry Warren; 1898: purchased by MFA from Edward Perry Warren for $ 69,618.13 (this figure is the total price for MFA 98.641-98.940)

Credit Line

Henry Lillie Pierce Fund