Bowl with Hunting Scene

Eastern Mediterranean, 2nd half 4th century 
Light green glass, diameter 8.5 cm
Corning Museum of Glass, New York

This is a small spherical bowl with a wide, short, slightly flaring neck. The figures and letters are executed by wheel-cut engraving; the inscription reads: VITA BONA PRVAMVR FELICES ("We fortunates enjoy the good life"). A hunter, dressed in the tunica exomis, has just released an arrow; his right arm is thrown back in a wide curve which fills in the space between the beginning and end of the inscription on the bowl's shoulder. Before him flee a doe, two stags, and a backward-glancing bear. The background spaces are filled in with a scatter of fan-shaped, pronged bushes. A flask found in Sicily is the closest parallel to this bowl. With a more elaborate hunting scene and an inscription in Greek, the flask has a background filled in with the same kind of pronged, fan-shaped bushes and letters formed in a very similar way. Harden considers these hunt bowls a stylistically distinct group. Other members are a flask found in Cologne with an inscription in Greek and another in Thessaloniki. Harden suggested that the Corning bowl came from the eastern Mediterranean. The shape and engraving technique suggest a date in the later fourth century, although the technique has been documented from earlier times. Representations of hunts, current in all media during the Late Antique period, reflected, in the popular imagination, not only one aspect of the leisured, good life, but also physical well-being reflecting moral integrity. This interpretation may apply to mythological contexts as well, and certainly to similar scenes on other precious objects.