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Large vase

The superb execution of this delicately carved vase is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the ancient Egyptian artisans. A broad, almost cylindrical body rises from a flat base toward a deeply undercut rim with a wide offset. Two small, unpierced lug handles are provided on the sides of the vessel. The restrained aspect that characterizes the vase, serves to focus the attention on its well-proportioned form and richness of material. The artist has deliberately incorporated the beautifully banded alabaster into his concept of the finished work, adding a high polish to enhance its lustre.

The Late Period was a time of political disintegration in ancient Egypt, caused by repeated confrontations with foreign invaders, a process that was to culminate in the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. These uncertain times caused the Egyptian artists to stress their own identity by looking back to their glorious past, thereby maintaining an unusually high standard of workmanship. In the creation of stone vessels an increased emphasis on lugged shapes is visible, often executed in Egyptian alabaster. The alabastron is the most obvious example, but there also existed imitations of Early Dynastic (ca. 3100 - 2686 B.C.) and Old Kingdom (ca. 2686 - 2181 B.C.) bowls and jars.

The so-called Egyptian alabaster is in fact a white or yellowish white limestone with a semi-translucent, beautifully veined appearance. This material occurs at many places in the limestone region of the Egyptian deserts. Most of the quarries known to have been exploited by the ancient Egyptians are located in the Eastern Desert, from south of Cairo (Wadi el-Garawi) to Asyut. Egyptian alabaster remained a popular material for stone-vessel making throughout the history of ancient Egypt.

Gubel E., 1995. In de schaduw van Babel/A l'ombre de Babel. De Kunst van het Oude Nabije Oosten in Belgische verzamelingen / L'art du Proche-Orient Ancien dans les collections belges, Brussel/Bruxelles: Banque Bruxelles Lambert, p. 9, II.

Conaissance des Arts, n° 247, September 1972, p. 60 ill.


- ALDRED C., Egyptian Art in the Days of the Pharaohs, 3100 - 320 B.C., London 1980.

- DE MEULENAERE H. (ed.), Égypte éternelle : Chefs-d'œuvre du Brooklyn Museum, Publié à l'occasion de l'exposition au Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles 9 décembre 1976 - 20 février 1977, Brussel 1976.

- DONADONI S., Egyptian Museum Cairo, Milan 1969.

- FLINDERS PETRIE W.M., The Funeral Furniture of Egypt: Stone and Metal Vases, London 1977.

- GÜNTHER P. & WELLAUER R., Ägyptische Steingefässe der Sammlung der Sammlung Rudolph Schmidt Solothurn, Zürich 1988.

- IKRAM S. & DODSON A., The Mummy in Ancient Egypt: Equipping the Dead for Eternity, London 1998.

- LACOVARA P., 'Vessels', in: REDFORD D.B. (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume 3, Oxford 2001, pp. 478-481.

- VON ZABERN P., Objects for Eternity: Egyptian Antiquities from the W. Arnold Meijer Collection, Mainz am Rhein 2006.

Object information

Banded alabaster
Date and place:
Egypt, Late Period (664 - 332 B.C.)
30,50 x 28,50 cm
Private collection Michel Pilette Vlug de Kinnear, Brussels; Private collection Jan Vlug, Brussels; Private collection René Withofs (1919—1997), Brussels, 1972 or before.

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  • © Axel Vervoordt - Jan Liégeois