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Palette with Two Birds

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, Pre-Dynastic, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor

Egyptians rubbed palettes like these with small pebbles to grind green or black pigment for eyepaint. These cosmetics accentuated the eyes and protected against sun glare and infection. Eyepaint palettes were also thought to provide magical protection, which could be enhanced by giving them animal shapes such as shown here. The palettes were important possessions that were often buried with their owners.

MEDIUM Graywacke, shell, faience, limestone, garnet
DATES ca. 3300-3000 B.C.E.
PERIOD Predynastic Period, late Naqada II-Naqada III Period
DIMENSIONS 4 5/8 x 8 7/8 in. (11.8 x 22.5 cm)  (show scale)
CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
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CAPTION Palette with Two Birds, ca. 3300-3000 B.C.E. Graywacke, shell, faience, limestone, garnet, 4 5/8 x 8 7/8 in. (11.8 x 22.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 09.889.161. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE overall, 09.889.161_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Wedge-shaped slate palette, with rounded corners, the small end blunted into a straight line, the broad end decorated with two birds’ heads, which protrude only slightly, with the tip of the long, curved beak separated from the borderline by cutting, the rest by a deep incised line. In both heads, a big, round eye, is carved out one each face, inlaid in center with a small perforated flat bead (three of faience, one of limestone) apparently restored in modern times. Perforated by a string hole between the two heads. On one face faint traces of malachite. Conditions: The extreme tip of one beak is broken off. Rather slight flaws in stone on both faces. On one face a small lump of some substance (garnet) is imbedded near one side.
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