Milton Vase

John Northwood I (English, 1836–1902)
Milton Vase, 1878
Blown cased glass, etched, cameo-carved
97.2

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The technique of carving layers of contrasting colors in relief is called cameo carving. The Romans invented it around the first century A.D. as masterful gem carvers began to apply their engraving skills to glass. The technique was revived by British glassmakers in 19th century, who drew upon multiple design sources to create awe-inspiring objects for display at international exhibitions.

Depicting a scene from John Milton's Paradise Lost, this vase is arguably the first great original object in the cameo-revival style. Carved by John Northwood, the scene on the vase shows the angel Raphael's descent to earth for a kindly visit with Adam and Eve, before their fall from grace. Northwood's choice of theme gave him an excuse to carve a classically undraped male and female nude in a Christian context.