Pyxides were luxury goods, used to hold the trinkets or cosmetics of upper-class Roman women. They were probably also used to contain medicines, perfumes and other precious toilette accessories. Though pyxides could be made in lesser materials, those of gold, silver, ivory and glass were the most coveted and thus the most expensive. The form of this pyxis, cylindrical with a conical lid, is known from silver pyxides of the 3rd Century B.C. (Stern, 1995, p. 170). The decoration of the present lot recalls Roman silver of the same period; interestingly, silver pyxides with an interior glass cup were used as inkwells in the Augustan period in North Italy (see Calvi, 1986, p. 494-513).
For a near identical lidded pxyis, see Corning Museum of Glass, acc. no. 55.1.68 (Whitehouse, 2001, p. 32, no. 500); the minor differences between the Corning example and the present lot include the number of concentric circles on the base, and the thickness of the tongues in the lid's decoration. The Corning also has a very similar example in translucent white (op. cit., pp. 32-3, no. 501). The Toledo Museum of Art has three examples of this type: one in olive green, one in opaque light blue, and one in cobalt blue (the latter two with lids missing, Stern, op. cit., cat. nos 79-81). There is a colourless example with a lid in the Jerusalem Museum (acc. no. 85.60.154). It is probable that these pyxides shared closely related moulds. When discussing a third Corning pyxis of similar form, but with different decoration on the pyxis body, Harden noted that "the quality of the workmanship supports the suggestion that this and similar vessels are related to the vessels made from moulds signed by Ennion" (1987, p. 159). The three Corning pyxides all come from the Ray Winfield Smith collection. For two examples with four rings on the base in greenish and light brown glass cf. Israeli, 2003, p. 127, nos 125-6.
Stern concludes that the varying findspots of pyxides of these and similar types, which include Pompeii (proving that this type was in use prior to 79 A.D.), the Rhineland, and Lebanon, suggest a wide geographical distribution, and perhaps even multiple workshops, in both the Eastern Mediterranean and Campania (op. cit., p. 170).