Egyptian Alabaster Jar
Period: Late Period, Dynasty 26, reign of Necho, ca. 610-595 BC
Dimensions: H: 33.5 cm
Ex Charles Pankow; ex Brummer Collection, New York, collected prior to 1970; ex Avery Brundage Collection
This beautifully carved vessel is a testimony to the great skill of Late Period stonemasons and a fine example of the type included in royal burials and used in temple offerings. It is carved from a single, large block of banded calcite, commonly mistaken for true alabaster and, even more confusingly, regularly referred to as Egyptian alabaster.1 The container is of a type known as a nemset jar,2 well-attested as an offering vessel for over two thousand years, from the Old Kingdom through the Late Period.
This example is generally cylindrical in form, tapering slightly toward the bottom to form a stable base. The sides taper again as they rise toward the neck, flaring outward into an evenly carved, flat rim. The jar could have easily been sealed with an animal skin pulled taught and secured around the neck, or topped with a stone serving as a lid. Adorned with two lug handles pierced for suspension, the vessel bears two inscriptions, the first on the main body and the second under the proper right handle.3 The finely carved inscriptions are typical of the period and add to the object’s simple elegance.
The main inscription reads, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Wah-ib-Re, Son of Re, Necho. May he live like Re, forever. Dynasty 26 is often referred to as the Saite Renaissance or Saite Revival, a period noted for a return to classic relief work and sculpting, a true rebirth of the impressive skills exhibited by artisans during the heights of dynastic civilization. The second inscription reads 19 hin and indicates the volume of the jar’s contents. The hin was a standard unit of measure roughly equal to one-half of a liter
Publication History: Sotheby’s New York, The Charles Pankow Collection of Egyptian Art, December 8, 2004, lot 52; Christie’s London, Fine Antiquities, December 10, 1981, lot 339; Sotheby’s London, Egyptian, Western, Asiatic, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities, July 9, 1973, lot 77