Glass bottle in the form of a fish
From el-Amarna, Egypt
18th Dynasty, around 1390-1336 BC
The tilapia: symbolic of rebirth
Glass vessels seem to have been primarily functional rather than ritual objects; their main use was as containers for cosmetics or precious oils. However, in this case the fish design might hint at some further meaning, complementing its beauty as an elite personal item.
The fish represented is a Nile tilapia fish which hatches and shelters her young in her mouth. The emergence of the live offspring from the tilapia's mouth led to the fish being used as a symbol of rebirth and regeneration, frequently worn as an amulet.
This is the most complete and spectacular example of several surviving fish-shaped glass vessels made around this period. It was found under the floor in a house at Tell el-Amarna, where it may have been buried by its owner.
Glass vessels from the New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC) are highly colourful objects, and glass was often used as a more versatile and less expensive substitute for semiprecious stones.
This fish was made by trailing molten glass over a core made of a clay mixture. Next, coloured rods of glass were wrapped around the body and dragged with a tool to create a fish-scale pattern. The body was then smoothed, the eyes and fins added and the core scraped out.
A.P. Kozloff and B.M. Bryan, Egypts dazzling sun: Amenhotep (Cleveland Museum of Art, 1992)
E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)
J.D. Cooney, Catalogue of Egyptian antiqu-3 (London, The British Museum Press, 1976)
S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)
Length: 14.500 cm
Length: 14.500 cm