189 Pieces

  It can smash in an instant. 
Look after it, and it could last for two thousand years



Directed by Katie Merritt, for the Maverick Theatre Company

 The British Museum, Saturday October 11


The Vase                     Jenn Harper

Mulcahy. Marcus         Lee White 

Lizzie. Hamilton          Natalia Hinds              

Dio. The Mender          Owen Clark                 

Augustus. Mrs.Delany  Lilian Schiffer

The Duchess                 Kluane Saunders



The Portland Vase


The Portland Vase is a Roman glass masterpiece of the late first century BC, made by what is known as the cameo technique. It probably took at least two years to make the Vase, and there is only one other Roman cameo vase in existence - found in Pompeii - which matches its  quality.

Possibly owned by the Emperor Augustus,  the Portland Vase was at some point placed in a Roman tomb - perhaps that of a late Roman emperor. Rediscovered in Rome in 1582, it was acquired by a succession of  high-class Italians, including Pope Urban VIII. Eventually in 1783 it was brought to London by Sir William Hamilton, who sold it to the Dowager Duchess of Portland for £1800.

Josiah Wedgwood borrowed the Vase in 1786 to make some ceramic copies. These were to have a huge impact on neo-classical design in late 18th century Britain.

Then in 1810 the 4th Duke of Portland deposited the Vase on loan in The British Museum, and in 1845 the incident occurred which sealed its fame. A visitor to the Museum, William Mulcahy, deliberately smashed the Vase.

Since then it has been restored three times, in 1845, 1948, and 1988-9. The last restoration was carried out by Nigel Williams, conservator at The British Museum. The Vase went back on display in October 1989, 25 years ago.