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Fragment of Bowl with Lotus, Antelope, and Fish

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor

An Egyptian invention, faience first appeared about 3500 B.C.E. and was used for a range of objects, including jewelry, amulets, bowls, pots, statuettes, inlays, and gaming pieces.

To make faience, ancient artisans first molded or shaped the raw material—a glassy paste of crushed quartz or sand —and then fired it. Craftsmen glazed faience pieces in three different ways. The simplest and oldest method involved brushing the object with, or immersing it in, liquid glaze before firing. Alternatively, workers mixed a crystalline mineral salt with the faience and allowed it to evaporate to the surface while the object dried. This mineral salt then melted and fused into a glaze during firing. In the third technique, an artisan buried the object in a glazing powder that fused with the core during firing. To decorate faience objects, craftsmen painted on designs before firing or mixed the moist faience paste with mineral colorants.

Unlike faience, glass was a foreign import that arrived in Egypt from western Asia shortly before 1500 B.C.E. The first Egyptian glassmakers relied on molds, limiting production to small objects such as beads and amulets. Later craftsmen perfected techniques that allowed for large, complex pieces.


Ancient Egyptian artists produced vessels in both glass and faience, producing different effects with each material.

The Egyptians began manufacturing glass vessels during the Eighteenth Dynasty reign of Thutmose III (circa 1479–1425 B.C.E.). Early examples, valued for their rarity and beauty, were luxury items used to store precious oils and perfumes. Craftsmen produced striking effects by adding threads of colored glass to a vessel’s surface while it was still hot and then dragging a pointed object across the surface to produce festooned patterns. The artist who made the fish flask shown here indicated the animal’s scales by pressing blue powdered glass down into the interior.

Early scholars often incorrectly characterized faience as simply an inexpensive substitute for glass, but recent research suggests that the Egyptians favored the material because of its attractive color and its association with water, the source of creation. A characteristic type of Eighteenth Dynasty faience vessel is the shallow bowl. Early in the dynasty, artists painted the interiors of these bowls with marsh scenes including fish and water plants; later painters introduced human figures.
MEDIUM Faience
DATES ca. 1539–1390 B.C.E.
DYNASTY Dynasty 18
PERIOD New Kingdom
DIMENSIONS 3 1/8 x 3 1/16 in. (8 x 7.7 cm)  (show scale)
CREDIT LINE Gift of Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield, Theodora Wilbour, and Victor Wilbour honoring the wishes of their mother, Charlotte Beebe Wilbour, as a memorial to their father Charles Edwin Wilbour
PROVENANCE Karnak, Egypt; 1887, purchased in Karnak by Charles Edwin Wilbour; 1896, inherited from Charles Edwin Wilbour by Charlotte Beebe Wilbour; 1914, inherited from Charlotte Beebe Wilbour by Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield, Theodora Wilbour, and Victor Wilbour; 1916, gift of Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield, Theodora Wilbour, and Victor Wilbour to the Brooklyn Museum.
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Fragment of blue glazed faience plate with design of lotus, deer and fish-pond in black. Underside with large lotus flower. Condition: Fragment. Preserved portion well preserved.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
CAPTION Fragment of Bowl with Lotus, Antelope, and Fish, ca. 1539–1390 B.C.E. Faience, 3 1/8 x 3 1/16 in. (8 x 7.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Evangeline Wilbour Blashfield, Theodora Wilbour, and Victor Wilbour honoring the wishes of their mother, Charlotte Beebe Wilbour, as a memorial to their father Charles Edwin Wilbour, 16.580.176. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.16.580.176_NegA_print_bw.jpg)
IMAGE overall, CUR.16.580.176_NegA_print_bw.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
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