Egyptian Cylindrical Alabaster Jar with Veining
Period: Old Kingdom, ca. 2700
Dimensions: H: 41.4 cm
Price: CHF 32'000
Ex- P. Vérité collection, Paris, 1920-1960s; thence, by descent, collection C. Vérité (), France.
Despite minor chips on the lip, the vessel is virtually intact: only a few examples as complete as this one have survived until modern times.
The outer surface was carefully polished.
The form is simple and elegant: a long cylinder, with a nearly vertical wall, provided with a flat base ending up with a rounded, prominent lip. Seen transparently, the natural veining of the stone, whitish or dark, horizontal or undulated, makes this object even more impressive to the modern eye.
Before being carved in different kinds of stone, vases similar in shape were made of terracotta by Egyptian potters.
In ancient Egypt, stone vases were regarded as significant luxury items: they only appear in the royal tombs and the highest ranking graves. The art of carving stone vessels has reached its climax at times as remote as the Early Dynastic period and the Old Kingdom already. Stone vessels were mainly used to contain food, unguents and cosmetic oils, and to store them thanks to the thickness and impermeability of their walls. All these substances had many uses in daily life (food, medicines), but they also played a leading role in the religious (offerings in temples, daily unctions of the statues and cult objects) and funeral sphere (preparation of the mummies, belief in the rejuvenating and regenerating effect of these substances). It is therefore not surprising that a very large number of stone vessels were regularly deposited in shrines and in funerary complexes.
Page -Gasser, M., and Wiese, A. B., Egypte, Moments d’éternité, Art égyptien dans les collections privées, Suisse, Mainz/Rhine, p. 39, n. 18;
and pp. 48-49, n. 26.
On the stone vases from the tomb of Djoser:
Lauer , J.-P., Saqqarah, La nécropole royale de Memphis, Plymouth, 1976, fig. 105-106.