Cup with wheel-cut decoration

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Roman, Germanic (probably Cologne)
4th century CE
11.2 x 11.8 cm
Yale University Art Gallery: The Hobart and Edward Small Moore Memorial Collection; 1955.6.182

Christian subjects became popular in the Roman Empire in the early fourth century CE, following the Emperor Constantine’s conversion in 312 and embrace of Christianity as the “favored” religion of the empire. One popular biblical story involved the raising of Lazarus from the dead, a pointed example of the miraculous power of Christ. On this cup, Lazarus, still wrapped in his burial shroud, stands next to Jesus, who holds a staff in his left hand; the four other figures included in the scene are probably anonymous onlookers.

This cup was decorated through wheel-cutting, a technique in which shallow cuts were made in the surface of a glass vessel by applying a rotating wheel of abrasive metal or stone to it. This decorative technique could be used to create lines, geometric designs, or, as here, figural scenes. The style of cutting, in which groups of parallel cut lines create solid areas suggestive of anatomy, drapery, architecture, and landscape, is associated with glass cutters working in the area of Cologne, Germany.

This text was prepared by Mellon Special Projects Curatorial Intern Kasia Vincunas.

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Faculty Essay

Cup with wheel-cut decoration
Kathleen Corrigan, Associate Professor of Art History, Dartmouth College

Drawn detail of the raising of Lazarus scene

Drawing by Susan Matheson, Ancient Art in the Yale University Art Gallery, 97.

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