Cosmetic Spoon in the Form of a Woman
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
Wood, Bone, and Ivory in the New Kingdom
Egyptian artists were resourceful in overcoming the problems of working with difficult materials to make the objects seen here.
Egyptian trees, such as acacia, sycamore, and tamarisk, are too small to produce large planks. Carpenters working with native woods thus had to develop complicated joinery techniques to build large objects like coffins and furniture. For expensive luxury items they used timbers such as ebony, cedar, and juniper, imported from Nubia and Punt to the south and Syria and Lebanon to the northeast. Ancient craftsmen used tools that would be familiar to modern carpenters, including adzes, chisels, reamers, and saws. Many ancient Egyptian wooden objects left in tombs as funerary offerings have survived remarkably well. Undisturbed tombs maintain extremely stable climatic conditions, slowing the effects of repeated expansion and contraction that are so damaging to wood. Egypt’s relatively dry climate also discourages the growth of mold, insects, and microorganisms that feed on wood.
Ancient Egyptian ivory used for carving came from the tusks of elephants and hippopotami. Elephants had probably disappeared from Egypt by the end of the Predynastic Period (circa 3100 B.C.E.), so their ivory had to be imported from Nubia. Hippopotami remained common in the lower Nile Valley until the seventeenth century C.E. Some antiquities mistakenly said to be made of ivory are actually made of the bones or antlers of cattle, sheep, goats, and antelopes. Egyptians used the often ideally shaped leg bones of these animals to create the handles of tools or weapons.
ca. 1390-1336 B.C.E.
2 5/16 x 1 7/16 x 10 5/16 in. (5.8 x 3.7 x 26.2 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
One wooden "cosmetic spoon" in the form of a swimming girl, nude except for her broad collar, with her arms extended before her holding a receptacle in the form of a duck. The head, made separately, is perpendicular to the body. Elaborate hairdo (Nubian style).
Condition: Left foot chipped; right foot partly missing; buttocks chipped. Head reattached to body. Major portion of edges of spoon missing; front part pieced together. Numerous cracks; entre piece somewhat charred.
Egyptian. Cosmetic Spoon in the Form of a Woman, ca. 1390-1336 B.C.E. Wood, 2 5/16 x 1 7/16 x 10 5/16 in. (5.8 x 3.7 x 26.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.620E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.37.620E_erg456.jpg)
. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 9/5/2007
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