Egyptian Spoons British Museum

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Transcript of Egyptian Spoons British Museum

Egypt Exploration Society

The Ointment Spoons in the Egyptian Section of the British Museum Author(s): Madeleine Frdricq Source: The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 13, No. 1/2 (Apr., 1927), pp. 7-13 Published by: Egypt Exploration Society Stable URL: Accessed: 24/09/2009 09:48Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1995 to build trusted digital archives for scholarship. We work with the scholarly community to preserve their work and the materials they rely upon, and to build a common research platform that promotes the discovery and use of these resources. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]

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THE OINTMENT SPOONS IN THE EGYPTIAN SECTION OF THE BRITISH MUSEUMBY MADELEITNEFRID]RICQ With Plates iii-ix. The richness and variety of the decoration of Egyptian ointment spoons justify' a special study of these products of industrial art. Few objects indeed display more decorative imagination; it would seem that the observation of the artist is constantly on the alert to discover some new method of treatment or to give fresh detail to a theme already employed. The decoration of these trifling objects, never intended to play any part outside the limits of the private life of the Egyptian, throws a singularly brilliant light on the surroundings in which his existence was passed. Here there is no preoccupation with the effect to be produced, no convention which the artist must follow; the pure delight of the eyes inspires these little masterpieces. Their diversity and the richness of their ornamentation do as much credit to those who executed them as to the public whose requirements were of so refined a nature, and it is surprisingly instructive, to those who would properly understand the artistic sense of an entire race, to observe this common striving towards beauty applied to the most trifling details of private life. The artist who conceived these implements of a few centimetres in length succeeded in introducing into their ornamentation an infinite number of combinations; sometimes they take their theme from the flora or fauna of the country; at other times one finds represented on the handles of the spoons male figures treated with a consummate knowledge of pose, or female figures rendered with a freedom of expression and a suppleness of movement which raise an everyday object to the level of a work of art. The British Museum possesses a remarkable collection of ointment spoons. In this single group the diversity of types which is offered us enables us to appreciate the full importance of their decoration. The present catalogue is only the first stage of a more extended study. It presents in itself a collection the diversity of which will not fail to astonish the reader accustomed only to conceive of the ointment spoons as represented by the few examples constantly represented in text-books of Egyptian art. I propose, in a more comprehensive work, to describe and illustrate photographically as many spoons as possible, to group the subjects which have been used in their decoration, to study the material of which they are made, to determine the period at which they appeared in Egyptian civilization and that during which they had their greatest vogue, and to draw, it may be, from their examination, some conclusions as to the evolution of Egyptian art as a whole, all of which questions it would be premature to treat on the strength of the examination of about fifty examples. The examination will only be complete when one has been able to compare the spoons of the British Museum with those of the Louvre and the museums of Berlin and Cairo. I take this opportunity of thanking heartily Dr. H. R. Hall, Keeper of the Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum, who has enabled me to undertake this work by authorizing me

Plate III. 5974 5973

5975Scale 5973 and 5974, c. 5975 and 5955, c.


Ointment-spoons in the British Museum.



to publish for the first time the beautiful collection of spoons in his care; also the Egypt Exploration Society, who have agreed to accept this article in their Journal and have illustrated it with such a large number of remarkable photographs. In addition to the spoons described below, the British Museum possesses two examples of spoons which Mile Mogensen of Copenhagen is to publish (Nos. 37924, 38188).BIBLIOGRAPHY.BUDGE. A Guide to the Third and Fourth Egyptian Rooms of the British Museum,London, 1904, 84-85

(quoted as Guide). de J. CAPART, L'art et la parure dans l'ancienne Egypte. (Bulletin de la SocieteArchgologique Bruxelles,tome 29, 1907, 325, Fig. 10.) H. FECHHEIMER, Die Kleinplastik der Aegypter, Berlin, 1921, 144. W. Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, 1878, II, 13-16 and 45-46. WILKINSON, DESCRIPTION1

5975. P1. iii. Ivory. Lth. 12-4 cm. Spoon consisting of an oval-shaped bowl edged by a dog-tooth design. The handle is formed of 7 stems of water plants. Two flower buds complete the bunch, joined by two ties in the middle of the stems. Two birds fill the angles formed by the bowl and the handle. Bowl broken in the upper part. Handle intact. 5957. P1. v. Ivory. Lth. 9'5 cm. Fragment of a spoon; small male figure, naked and full face, carrying on its head a mussel-shaped shell which it supports with both arms raised. The right arm is broken.The figure rests on a floral capital which must have surmounted a round and thin stem.

The right arm is missing, as also is the handle of the spoon. 5955. P1. iii. Ivory. Lth. 11 cm. Spoon with a circular bowl edged by a dog-tooth design. The handle consists of a Hathor-head seen full face. The head is adorned with two uraei. The angles between the bowl and the handle are filled by lotus flowers surmounted by Mimusops fruit. The handle has possibly been shortened. 5963. Ivory. Lth. 27-5 cm. Small spoon in the form of an elongated shell (mussel) with a circular stem endingin a duck's head.WILKINSON, op. cit., II, 46, Fig. 312, 3.

32147. Ivory. Lth. 6-5 cm. Small spoon in the form of a duck or goose trussed for sacrifice. The body is hollowed out and forms the receptacle. The feet are bent round on to the back of the body, on which are also two hands, with arms stretched out and broken above the neck; these must have belonged to a female swimmer forming the handle of the spoon. 5972. P1. iv. Wood. Lth. 5-7 cm. Fragment of a spoon in the form of a lotus flower with a bud on each side-trace of a pivot at the base of the flower. The central subject, consisting of the full blown flower, forms the lid of the bowl. On the back of this two open hands coming from out-stretched arms (broken) indicate that the handle of the spoon was formed by a female swimmer1 The spoons are described in the order in which they were exhibited at the moment of my visit, and the numbers given are those of the Inventory.

Plate IV.


5972 Ointment-spoons in the British Museum.Scale: c. j.


Plate V. 5956 5957

.r .


50985 Ointment-spoons in the British Museum.Scale: e. i.. Scale' c.







9 Handle

pushing before her a bouquet of flowers. Trace of incrustation in green paste. broken off. WILKINSON, op. cit., II, 46, Fig. 312. 26783. Wood. Lth. 13 cm. Circular bowl with handle undecorated and splintered.

38189. Wood. Lth. 10-5 cm. Fragment of a spoon consisting of a lotus surmounted by the fruit of the Mimusops. The whole forms a lid with traces of rivets at the base and at the top. Trace of inthe petals. The handle and the bowl are missing

crustationin green and white paste, green for the petals and white for the interstices of5976. PI. v. Wood. Ht. 13-5 cm. Spoon of indefinable shape; does not seem to be a floral motif; might be a reminiscence of the sceptre. Decoration of the bowl and of the handle formed by four groups of incised bands, of which three are on the handle. WILKINSON, op. cit., in, 45, Fig. 31. 5968. P1. v. Wood. Lth. 15 cm. Spoon with oval-shaped bowl, the point turned down. Handle in the form of a lotus sceptre (?). Perhaps a representation of the sistrum. 5959. Wood. Lth. 8 cm. Spoon with circular bowl. Short handle formed by a hand holding a bowl. handle ends in a duck's head. From Thebes. The

5974. PI. iii. Wood. Ht. 145 cm. Spoon with circular decorated bowl. Two falcons right and left on the upper part of the rim. Handle formed by three flower stems held by two ties. Two flowers horizontally arranged fill the angles between bowl and handle. 5978. P1. vii. Wood. Ht. 13-5 cm. Spoon in form of royal cartouche. Bowl with border of dog-tooth. flowers supports the bowl. Traces of greenish blue incrustation. A cluster of

38186. PI. vi. Wood. Ht. 28-9 cm. Spoon in the form of a female swimmer of neg