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Work Recipient with bowls

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Christian Egypt (fourth - twelfth centuries AD)

Plat à cupules

© Musée du Louvre/C. Larrieu

Egyptian Antiquities
Christian Egypt (fourth - twelfth centuries AD)

Lyon-Caen Christiane

This large dish with a round base consists of a central bowl surrounded by six smaller bowl shapes. The spaces between the outer bowls are decorated with stylized images of trees. This type of recipient involved a three-step production: the round dish was thrown on a potter's wheel; the openings were cut out; and finally, the smaller bowl shapes were formed, fitted into the openings, and attached using a clay slip. This dish was designed to hold various condiments.

Child-like drawings

Discovered in a silo at Tod, Upper Egypt, this large serving dish has a central bowl, which is larger than those surrounding it. It rests on a round stemmed base. The small decorative trees between the smaller bowls are depicted in a style reminiscent of children's drawings: the round crown of the tree consists of large, purple dots, arranged in a circle around an orange center with a grid pattern. The tree trunks are also orange and rest on two large purple circles representing the tree roots. The painter made a mistake with the sixth tree, as he painted a second crown in the place of the roots.

An original technique

This type of dish was made in several steps. The potter threw the dish on the potter's wheel, then cut out circular openings; he then made enough smaller bowls to match the openings; and finally, attached them to the unfired dish using a slip solution. After covering the entire surface with an ivory-colored slip, he painted the decoration, then placed the finished object in the kiln for firing.


These compartmentalized dishes have existed since earliest antiquity in Cyprus, Crete, the Middle East, and Egypt, where they were used to hold offerings to the gods. The purpose of this particular type of Coptic dish is still uncertain. There is always a strong temptation in archaeology to attribute rare and beautifully made objects to religious purposes, but we must not forget that this form of serving dish had been used throughout the Mediterranean basin as a "condiments dish" long before, during the Arab period.


Exposition à L'Institut du monde arabe : "l'art copte en Egypte, 2000 ans de christianisme", Paris, 2000, n 242, p.204

Technical description

  • Plat à cupules

    VIe - VIIIe siècle après J.-C.


  • céramique peinte

    H. 8 cm; Diam. 31 cm

  • Fouilles du musée du Louvre, 1980 , 1980

    E 27224

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Lower ground floor
    Gallery of Coptic art
    Room 173
    Vitrine C3 : Céramique

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