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is the use of glass, with which they were acquainted, at least, as early as the reign of the first Osirtasen, more than 3800 years ago; and the process of glass-blowing is represented, during his reign, in the paintings of Beni Hassan, in the same manner as it is on later monuments, in different parts of Egypt, to the time of the Persian conquest.
The form of the bottle and the use of the blow-pipe are unequivocally indicated in those subjects; and the green hue of the fused material, taken from the fire at the point of the pipe, sufficiently proves the intention of the artist. But, even if we had not this evidence of the use of glass, it would be shown by those well-known images of glazed pottery, which were common at the same period; the vitrified substance that covers them being of the same quality as glass, and containing the same in
And besides the many
gredients fused in the same manner. glass ornaments known to be of an earlier period is a bead, found at Thebes, bearing the name of a Pharaoh who lived about 1450 B.C., the specific gravity of which, 25° 23', is precisely the same as of crown glass, now manufactured in England.
378. Figs. 1, 2. Glass bottles represented in the sculptures of Thebes. 3. Captain Henvey's glass bead. About the real size.
4. The hieroglyphics on the bead, containing the name of Amun-m-het, who lived about B.c. 1450.
Glass bottles, similar to those in the above woodcut (figs. 1, 2), are even met with on monuments of the fourth dynasty, dating long before the Osirtasens, or more than 4000 years ago; the transparent substance shows the red wine they contained; and this kind of bottle is represented in the same manner among the offerings to the gods, and at the fêtes of individuals, wherever wine was introduced, from the earliest to the latest times. Bottles, and other objects of glass, are commonly found in the tombs; and though they have no kings' names or dates inscribed upon
them (glass being seldom used for such a purpose), no doubt exists of their great antiquity; and we may consider it a fortunate chance that has preserved one bead with the name of a sovereign of the 18th dynasty. Nor is it necessary to point out how illogical is the inference that, because other kinds of glass have not been found bearing a king's name, they were not made in Egypt, at, or even before, the same early period.
Pliny ascribes the discovery of glass to some Phoenician sailors accidentally lighting a fire on the sea-shore; but if an effect of chance, the secret is more likely to have been arrived at in Egypt, where natron (or subcarbonate of soda) abounded, than by the sea side; and if the Phoenicians really were the first to discover it on the Syrian coast, this would prove their migration from the Persian Gulf to have happened at a very remote period. Glass was certainly one of the great exports of the Phoenicians; who traded in beads, bottles, and other objects of that material, as well as various manufactures, made either in their own or in other countries; but Egypt was always famed for its manufacture; a peculiar kind of earth was found near Alexandria, without which, Strabo says, " it was impossible to make certain kinds of glass of many colours, and of a brilliant quality;" and some vases, presented by an Egyptian priest to the Emperor Hadrian, were considered so curious and valuable that they were only used on grand occasions.
Glass bottles, of various colours, were eagerly bought from Egypt, and exported into other countries; and the manufacture, as well as the patterns of many of those found in Greece, Etruria, and Rome, show that they were of Egyptian work; and though imitated in Italy and Greece, the original art was borrowed from the workmen of the Nile.
Such, too, was their skill in making glass, and in the mode of staining it of various hues, that they counterfeited with success the emerald, the amethyst, and other precious stones; and even arrived at an excellence in the art of introducing numerous colours into the same vase, to which our European workmen, in spite of their improvements in many branches of this manufac
ture, are still unable to attain. A few years ago the glassmakers of Venice made several attempts to imitate the variety of colours found in antique cups; but as the component parts were of different densities, they did not all cool, or set, at the same rapidity, and the vase was unsound. And it is only by making an inner foundation of one colour, to which those of the outer surface are afterwards added, that they have been able to produce their many-coloured vases, some of which were sent to the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Not so the Egyptians, who combined all the colours they required in the same cup, without the interior lining: those which had it being of inferior and cheaper quality. They had even the secret of introducing gold between two surfaces of glass; and in their bottles, a gold band alternates within a set of blue, green, and other colours. Another curious process was also common in Egypt in early times, more than 3000 years ago, which has only just been attempted at Venice, whereby the pattern on the surface was made to pass in right lines directly through the substance; so that if any number of horizontal sections were made through it, each one would have the same device on its upper and under surface. It is, in fact, a Mosaic in glass, made by fusing together as many delicate rods of an opaque glass, of the colour required for the picture, in the same manner as the woods in Tunbridge-ware are glued together, to form a larger and coarser pattern. The skill required in this exquisite work is not only shown by the art itself, but the fineness of the design; for some of the feathers of birds, and other details, are only to be made out with a lens; which means of magnifying was evidently used in Egypt, when this Mosaic glass was manufactured. Indeed, the discovery of a lens of crystal by Mr. Layard, at Nimroud, satisfactorily proves its use at an early period in Assyria; and we may conclude that it was neither a recent discovery there, nor confined to that country.
Winckelmann is of opinion that "the ancients carried the art of glassmaking to a higher degree of perfection than ourselves, though it may appear a paradox to those who have not seen
their works in this material;" and we may even add that they used it for more purposes, excepting of course windows, the inconvenience of which, in the hot sun of Egypt, would have been unbearable; or even in Italy; and only one pane of glass has been found at Pompeii, in a place not exposed to the outer light.
Winckelmann also mentions two pieces of glass mosaic, "one of which, though not quite an inch in length, and a third of an inch in breadth, exhibits, on a dark and variegated ground, a bird resembling a duck, in very bright and varied colours, rather in the manner of a Chinese painting than a copy of nature. The outlines are bold and decided, the colours beautiful and pure, and the effect very pleasing, in consequence of the artist having alternately introduced an opaque and a transparent glass. The most delicate pencil of a miniature painter could not have traced with greater sharpness the circle of the eyeball, or the plumage of the neck and wings; at which part this specimen has been broken. But the most surprising thing is, that the reverse exhibits the same bird, in which it is impossible to discover any difference in the smallest details; whence it may be concluded that the figure of the bird continues through its entire thickness. The picture has a granular appearance on both sides, and seems to have been formed of single pieces, like mosaic work, united with so much skill, that the most powerful magnifying glass is unable to discover their junction. From the condition of this fragment, it was at first difficult to form any idea of the process employed in its manufacture; and we should have remained entirely ignorant of it, had not the fracture shown that filaments of the same colours, as on the surface of the glass, and throughout its whole diameter, passed from one side to the other; whence it has been concluded that the picture was composed of different cylinders of coloured glass, which, being subjected to a proper degree of heat, united by (partial) fusion. I cannot suppose they would have taken so much trouble, and have been contented to make a picture only the sixth of an inch thick, while, by employing longer filaments,