In the second half of the 1st century BC, the invention of glass blowing constituted a real revolution in the production of glass objects. Used in combination with moulds it allowed vases of all shapes to be mass-produced mechanically at an affordable price.
Perfumers, attracted by their shape and transparency were keen to use them to sell their costly creations. These little vases in the shape of the head of a young Ethiopian slave were probably used for this purpose. The design harks back to the ceramics produced by the Athenian workshops. The young Ethiopian can be represented as serious as is the case here, or crowned with ivy and grinning broadly. Unusually, the Petit Palais goblet bears a signature which means it can be traced to an eastern glassblowing workshop. The discovery of two unsigned vases of this type in Pompeii bears witness to the popularity of this style as far afield as Italy.
Aside from the presence of the signature, the composition of the glass gives this head flask the rare distinction of changing colour depending on the light.