Object of the Week: Plaque with Actor’s Mask, possibly Alexandria, Egypt, Roman Empire, 25 BC-75 AD. 66.1.78.
For three centuries following its conquest by Alexander in 332 B.C., Egypt was ruled by Macedonian Greeks. These rulers and their subjects enjoyed Greek drama. The actors employed conventionalized masks to represent these characters, and the distinctive colors and features of the masks made them instantly recognizable. The characters included soldiers, slaves, and courtesans, and they were portrayed in mosaic glass plaques that became popular decorative motifs. Glassmakers used halves of faces to form complete, symmetrical faces by combining two slices from the same mosaic cane, one of which was simply reversed.