Perfume bottle in the form of a trussed duck or goose

The body of this slender vessel takes the shape of a plucked duck or goose bound with string and ready for cooking - a familiar theme in Egyptian art. During the Old Kingdom, some tombs were provided with life-size cases shaped like such birds with real food offerings inside, while other tombs contained miniature versions in solid stone. In the Middle Kingdom, perfume and ointment containers in the form of trussed ducks were carved in the beautiful blue stone anhydrite, and that tradition continued into the New Kingdom. This Late Period example, however, may owe as much to contemporary Aegean figural vases as it does to its Egyptian precedents. Like some Corinthian oil bottles, it rests horizontally on its belly (it will not stand unsupported), and has a handle in the form of an animal's neck that curves back from the rim of the vessel so that the head rests on the body. The Egyptians loved such figurative vessels that were functional at the same time. The small size and narrow opening of this bottle would have been perfect for precious ointments or perfumes that were used only in small doses and needed to be protected from evaporation. The material from which the bottle is made, faience, is difficult to work. A nonclay ceramic manufactured from crushed sand and salt, and a colorant, it has none of the malleability of clay. The small size, fancy shape, subtle hues, and remarkably thin handle of this faience vessel make it a masterpiece in miniature.

Provenance

By 1996: with Emanuel Tiliakos, Winchester, MA; 1996: purchased by the MFA from Emanuel Tiliakos.

(Accession Date: June 26, 1996)

Credit Line

Marilyn M. Simpson Fund

Perfume bottle in the form of a trussed duck or goose

  • Egyptian, Late Period, Dynasty 26, 664–525 B.C.
Dimensions
length x width x height: 2.7 x 3.6 x 7.8 cm (1 1/16 x 1 7/16 x 3 1/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Faience
Classification
Vessels
Accession Number
1996.108
On view
Egypt: Late Period Gallery - 216

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