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Work Vase in the form of an ibex

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Vase : bouquetin

© 2002 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Pierrat-Bonnefois Geneviève

Egyptian craftsmen excelled in the art of representing animals in their natural attitudes. This exceptionally well-preserved vase, in the form of an ibex with its young, is a precious example of the art of modeling in terracotta, which was relatively unusual in Pharaonic Egypt.

A Nubian ibex

The Nubian ibex was foremost among the animals hunted by the Egyptians and was sometimes kept in menageries, too. It is clearly recognizable here, with its magnificent ridged horns curling backward. This particular object represents a mother, flanked by two kids. She is lying on her left side with three of her legs to the right and the left foreleg folded under her. The rounded volume of the back and naturalistic position of the legs are very well observed, in contrast with the stylized kids that seem to be appliquéd to her sides.

An example of clay sculpture

This piece was no doubt hand-modeled rather than molded, with elements such as the ears, horns, and two kids being added elements. The outlines of the limbs, eyes, horns, and dividing line along the back were highlighted in black. The precise black lines stand out clearly against the polished, shiny red surface of the fine baked clay. This kind of vase is a rather rare example of clay sculpture, which was fairly unusual in Egyptian art.

Novelty vases

This object is a vase, albeit a rather impractical one: its opening, in the animal's mouth, is oriented slightly downward. Between the reigns of Tuthmosis III and Amenophis III, Egyptian potters produced charming vases like this one, which were shaped like genuine sculptures. Their repertoire was largely inspired by domestic themes such as nurses and children, maidservants, and musicians. Various animals were also represented, in postures that seem to have no connection with a particular ritual or religious notion. As they sometimes appear impractical, and bear no traces of their contents, perhaps these delightful little objects were made just for fun-a decorative evocation of some of life's pleasures in the Egypt of the time.


Un siècle de fouilles françaises, Paris, 1980, p. 225-227

Technical description

  • Vase : bouquetin

    trouvé dans une tombe à Dra abou'l Naga

  • terre cuite

    H. : 10,20 cm. ; L. : 15 cm.

  • E 12659

  • Egyptian Antiquities

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