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Egyptian Faience Aryballos in the Shape of a Fish (Tilapia Nilotica)

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: Egyptian
: middle of the 6th century B.C.
: Faience
: H : 7 cm
: CHF 30'000

Ex-American private collection, acquired between 1970 and 1989.


The tail, the ventral fin, and part of the right flank of the fish have been restored. Many details are painted in black on the surface of the faience (pupils, fins, edge of the spout), which only retains traces of its original luster under the muzzle.


reference 21175

The body, in the shape of a drop when seen horizontally, is a bit more rounded on the left than the right. The neck of the vessel sits on top of the fish’s body, above its head and attached to the dorsal fin. The ventral fins would have served as small feet for the vessel. A lattice pattern incised on the body represents the scales. The eyes are circular and in low relief; the mouth is indicated by a bulge with a horizontal incision. Technically and typologically, this plastic vessel belongs to the same group as (66) et (65). The subject comes from the repertory of Egyptian iconography: the fish represented seems to be a Tilapia nilotica, a species abundant in the waters of the Nile. Because the female, after laying her eggs, carries them in her mouth until they hatch, this species was regarded as a symbol of rebirth and regeneration, as well as an example of birth without fertilization.Vessels in the shape of fish are much rarer than those in the form of hedgehogs and come primarily from Rhodes.


BUSZ R. – GERCKE P., Türkis und Azur, Quarzkeramik im Orient und Okzident, (Kassel, 1999), p. 363, no. 199.
CAUBET A. (ed.), Faïences. Faïences de l’Antiquité. De l’Egypte à l’Iran, (Paris, 2005), pp. 132-135.
MAXIMOVA M.I., Les vases plastiques dans l’Antiquité, (Paris, 1927), pl. 32
VANDIER J., Catalogue des objets de toilette égyptiens, (Paris, 1972), pp. 93-101.
WEBB V., Archaic Greek Faience, (Warminster, 1978), pp. 134-35ff .

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