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Work Four vases with the name of Ramesses II

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs

Vases au nom de Ramsès II

© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
Religious and funerary beliefs

Pierrat-Bonnefois Geneviève

These four, bright-blue glazed vases are in extremely good condition. They entered the Louvre collection as "canopic" recipients, designed to contain the embalmed viscera of the great king Ramesses II. Several recent studies have brought to light their long history from the temple to the necropolis.

An enthusiastic purchase

When these four beautiful vases were acquired in the early 20th century, art historians were convinced they were the canopic vases of Ramesses II. Indeed, they were filled with densely packed linens impregnated with organic material and they were inscribed with the names of the great king. Finally, there were four vases, as was the custom for these funerary recipients, designed to contain for eternity the embalmed organs removed from the body of the mummy. One of the vases contained a heart. Certain journalists protested strongly against this acquisition, saying it was too macabre. Yet an in-depth study of Ramesses' mummy conducted in Paris in 1976 revealed that the pharaoh's heart had remained in place, inside his mummified body.

Exceptional vases

Viewers were also charmed by the beauty of these "faience" vases, a quartz ceramic with a lovely blue glaze, decorated with formulas in black, praising King Ramesses. No other vase of equivalent size and in such good condition was known to exist. A recent study revealed that their small bucket shapes - or situlae - identifies them as liturgical vases used in temples to hold offerings to the gods. The texts dedicate the vases to the Theban gods Amun-Ra and Mut, rather than to Osiris or to the other gods of the dead. How, then, did they end up with this soiled linen and this heart?

A thousand years and multiple uses

Analyses now underway (J. Connand and colleagues, CNRS, to be published) reveal that the material on the inside is a trace of a scented unguent, not an embalming product; its dates from the Third Intermediate Period (c. 1035 BC). In addition, the resin contained in the heart dates from the early Ptolemaic Period (c. 275 BC). These liturgical vases, consecrated in a temple of Amun under the reign of Ramesses II, were therefore used as originally intended - as recipients for scented unguents, a traditional offering to the gods - until the Third Intermediate Period. They were co-opted at a much later date for the embalming rites of an individual.


Kanawaty Monique, "Les Vases bleus de Ramsès II", Memnonia VI, 1995, pp. 175-190.
Barbotin Christophe, Les Monuments d'éternité de Ramsès II, Catalogue exposition Louvre, Paris, 1999, pp. 25-30.
Connan Jacques, Technè.

Technical description

  • Vases au nom de Ramsès II

    1279 - 1213 avant J.-C. (19e dynastie)

  • faïence siliceuse

    H. : 30,70 cm. ; D. : 17,10 cm.

  • E 11094

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    The New Kingdom
    Room 641
    Vitrine 5 : Décor en "faïence" des palais du Delta

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