Dwarf holding a jar

Egyptian
New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Akhenaten
1349–1336 B.C.


Dimensions

Height x width x depth: 5.9 x 1.8 x 2.6 cm (2 5/16 x 11/16 x 1 in.)

Accession Number

48.296

Medium or Technique

Boxwood

On View

Egyptian New Kingdom Gallery (Gallery 210)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Vessels

Whereas monumental sculpture in Egypt was more or less restricted to a certain number of well-established types destined for tomb and temple, objects of daily life afforded more opportunity for invention. This exquisite cosmetic container is in the form of a dwarf balancing the weight of a huge storage jar nearly half his size. A moment is frozen in time as his whole body adjusts to accommodate the load. Minuscule hieroglyphs on the shoulder of the jar spell out the names of Akhenaten and Nefertiti, indicating that the object was probably a royal gift to some favored courtier. Amenhotep III gave similar presents - in one case, he sent to the king of Babylon “one cripple, of stone, with a jar in his hand,” evidently as a prize example of Egyptian workmanship.

The cosmopolitan high society of Dynasty 18 was fond of luxury goods and able to afford them. Expensive cosmetics and lotions were enjoyed by both sexes and kept in specialized small containers. Whimsical containers in the form of a servant carrying a vessel were particularly in vogue during the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. The bearers range from svelte young serving girls to wizened old menservants.

Provenance

Said to have come from el-Amarna. By 1948: Maurice Nahman collection; 1948: purchased by the MFA from Dr. Jacob Hirsch, New York, for $850.

(Accession Date: January 1, 1948)

Credit Line

Helen and Alice Colburn Fund