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Core-Formed Fish Flask

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art


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.
  • Reportedly From: Saqqara, Egypt
  • DATES ca. 1390–1292 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 18
    PERIOD New Kingdom
    DIMENSIONS 2 1/4 × 4 3/8 × 1 5/8 in. (5.7 × 11.1 × 4.1 cm) mount (m2): 7 × 4 1/4 × 1 1/2 in. (17.8 × 10.8 × 3.8 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    PROVENANCE Archaeological provenance not yet documented, reportedly from Saqqara, Egypt; by 1852, acquired in Egypt by Henry Abbott of the United Kingdom and Cairo, Egypt; 1859, purchased from Henry Abbott by the New-York Historical Society, New York, NY; 1937, loaned from the New-York Historical Society to the Brooklyn Museum; September 1948, purchased from the New-York Historical Society by the Brooklyn Museum.
    Provenance FAQ
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Hollow core made glass vessel in the form of a fish with open mouth. The fish is rather simply modeled with the body surfaces treated as smooth curves and with the only fins represented being the lower dorsal fin. The piece is made of transparent, all but colorless glass with, on the inner surface, blue glass spots and lines. The eyes are blue and yellow, and a ribbon of opaque yellow glass outlines the mouth. Condition: Remnants of pale tan core on inner surface. Layer of whitish surface disintegration. Large piece missing on one side; small hole near the tail. Several small cracks.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Core-Formed Fish Flask, ca. 1390–1292 B.C.E. Glass, 2 1/4 × 4 3/8 × 1 5/8 in. (5.7 × 11.1 × 4.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.316E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 37.316E_overall_PS22.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 37.316E_overall_PS22.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2024
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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