The Minden Family

The Collection

The Collection consists of over 75 pieces of original ancient glass and pottery. The examples of glass date from the 6th century BC to the 12th century AD, thus covering a wide spectrum of glass making technology from its earliest beginnings in ancient Mesopotamia and Greece through to the middle ages. The pieces in the collection originate in the regions of Syria and Palestine, including the periods of Roman and Islamic occupation. The collection contains a variety of vessels that show developments in glass making techniques beginning in the ancient Near East. The earliest technique is called core forming which dates to the 10th century BC. In the 1st century BC, glass blowing and mould-made glass technologies were invented. The varying shapes and styles attest to the different functions of each piece. Many of the vessels in the collection were used as perfume vials, but there are others that were used as drinking and serving ware for special occasions. The collection also consists of a number of ancient glass and faience beads that were used as adornment. The Arthur and Beatrice Minden Collection of Glass occupies a prominent position in the Museum's growing collection of original ancient artefacts. Thanks to the generosity of donors like the Mindens, the Museum now boasts a substantial collection of ancient glass and pottery, much of it hailing from the ancient Near East. The breadth of the collection will serve faculty and students of the University of Saskatchewan by providing a valuable educational and research collection for advancing the study of ancient material culture.

Arthur Minden (1910-1966) journeyed as a child with his family from Zhitormir, then part of the Russian Empire, to Hamilton, Ontario. In 1912, Canada became his home. The first of his family to attend university, he graduated from Osgoode Hall and established a law practice that grew to become a prominent firm (Toronto's Minden Gross LLP was founded in 1950 by Arthur Minden, Edwin J. Pivnick and Morris A. Gross). Well known for his enthusiasm, love of life and the assistance he extended to others, his generous character developed into an active public-spiritedness and in 1954, together with his friend Dr. David Green, he created the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada. Today, The Arthur Minden Pre-Doctoral Fellowship award through Muscular Dystrophy Canada honours him as its co-founder and first president. His leadership qualities were recognized in Toronto's Jewish community and he was asked to lead a study mission to the young country of Israel. During a number of visits he became fascinated with ancient glass from the middle east. In the late 1950s he began this collection. His early death left his wife Beatrice its custodian.
Beatrice Minden, née Spiegel (1910-2009) was born in Toronto to immigrant parents and married Arthur Minden in 1934. She shared his exuberance for life, the arts and community involvement. After Arthur's death in 1966, Beatrice, inspired by his enthusiasm for philanthropy, created the Beatrice & Arthur Minden Foundation and offered support to many cultural and medical organizations in Toronto as well as creating scholarships in Toronto and Israel. She survived her husband by almost half a century, passing away in 2009 at close to 100 years old. It was her wish that a suitable home for the collection be found in Canada that would enable continued scholarship and appreciation for this exquisite ancient glass.

Core-Formed Glass

The earliest container glass vessels were of the core-formed type, which originated in New Kingdom Egypt and Mesopotamia around 1500 BC.  The technique was later revived in Classical and Hellenistic Greece.  It involved making a removable core of mud, clay or sand built up in the desired shape of the vessel around a metal rod.  The core was then either dipped in molten glass or threads of hot glass were wound about it.  The vessel was then rolled upon a flat surface to refine and smooth out the shape.  Decorations, such as zigzags, were created by dragging a comb-like implement along the surface while it was still hot.  Handles, necks, rims and feet were fused on separately.  Finally, the core and metal rod were removed.  The main shapes of core-formed vessels, including the alabastron (elongated flask), amphoriskos (small amphora), and the oinochoe (juglet), show Greek influence.  Given their small size, the primary function of these vessels was likely to hold perfumes.  The main centres for the production of these vessels were likely Egypt, Syria and Greece.

Islamic Glass

Glass production continued unabashed in the wake of the fall of the western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, particularly in the east.  Along with the rise of Islam came innovative styles, which flourished roughly from the 7th to the 14th centuries.  Although indebted to glass-making techniques of late antiquity, Islamic glass artists introduced new shapes and new methods of decoration, including gilding and enameling of glass, methods that were later passed on to the Venetians.  Islamic artists were also renowned for their superb relief-cut vessels.

A highlight of the Arthur and Beatrice Minden collection are several exquisite pieces of Islamic glass of late antiquity and the early middle ages. The earlier Islamic pieces were inspired by a Roman tradition of decorating clear, thin-walled vessels with fine spiraled and pinched threads. Late Islamic pieces, brilliantly coloured mold-blown vessels, remained in production into the early Middle Ages.  Islamic vessels with globular bodies or round with flat bottoms attached to long, thin necks were popular as rose-water sprinklers.  Such shapes were also popular in pottery manufacturing.  Islamic cut glass is represented by a refined blue-green tubular bottle decorated with cut ovals inlaid in opaque white glass.

Perfume Vessels

Perfume Bottles

Slag Glass