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Terracotta bottle in the shape of a female lute player


Height: 23.000 cm

Acquired in 1836 from the collection of James Burton

EA 5114

Ancient Egypt and Sudan

    Terracotta bottle in the shape of a female lute player

    From Thebes, Egypt
    mid-18th Dynasty (about 1479-1352 BC)

    A magical vase?

    The form of this bottle is often compared to the female musicians shown in Eighteenth-Dynasty (1550-1295 BC) banquet scenes on the walls of Theban tombs. The women depicted in the tombs are usually naked, but the one represented by this vase wears a long dress with the hem and other details painted in black. Parts of the small lute she carries are also painted in black, and it seems likely from the markings on the soundbox that it represents one made of tortoiseshell.

    There are no other pottery vessels known that are exactly comparable to this one. The vessel belongs to a broader category of New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC) figured vases that are most commonly in the form of animals or female figures. It is possible that this type of vessel was used as a container for human milk and, because of the association with life and rebirth, they may also have had a magical dimension for their owners.

    E. Brovarski and others (eds), Egypts golden age: the art of (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1982)

    E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

    J. Bourriau, Cahiers de la céramique égypti (Institut Francais d'Archeologie Orientale du Caire, 1987)

    J. Bourriau, Umm el-Gaab: pottery from the (Cambridge University Press, 1981)

    S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


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