Saturday, February 2, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: An Egyptian Rock Crystal Bottle, 975-1000

Egypt, 975-1000
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This tubular-shape bottle narrows at the neck and foot and is adorned with a broad band of palmette scrolls in the center and plain moldings, at the shoulder and foot. Given the fact that this piece is between 900 and 1000 years old, it has suffered some damage—a chip and a missing foot. Looking through the mouth hole, one can see at the base the mark of a drill—a fascinating technology used to fashion this vessel in Egypt.

Rock crystal vessels were made for the rulers of Cairo during the Fatimid period (969–1171). These were the work of very skilled craftsmen. Enormous skill and paitence was required to hollow out the raw rock crystal without breaking it and to carve the delicate, often very shallow, decoration. Because of this, these were prestigious items that the ruler would have displayed in his treasury.

These bottles were probably used for storing perfumes—highly costly materials in their own right.

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