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* An Egyptian Pre-Dynastic Graywacke Bird Palette, Naqada II, ca. 3450 BCE

ES1801

Thinly carved from fine greywacke slate, the almond-shaped form depicting a pair of abstract birds with down-turned beaks and shallow drilled holes for eyes, each facing outward with a shallow notch separating them.

Beginning in the Pre-Dynastic era, ancient Egyptians used schist palettes to grind up malachite and galena that were then used as eye paint for both health and cosmetic purposes. The bird-form palette was one of three types the Egyptians favored; the birds were often displayed in pairs, with their heads always facing away from one another. The pairing could simply be a symmetrical arrangement of two animals or could indicate a mating pair (as seen in late Old Kingdom reliefs). Another theory is that animal pairs are an early representation of the concept of duality that was widespread throughout Egyptian history and culture (Patch, p. 40)

Ref: Patch, Diana Craig, Dawn of Egyptian Art, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012, pg 40.

Petrie, W.M.F., Prehistoric Egypt with Corpus of Prehistoric Pottery and Palettes, London, 1920, pl. LVI, nos. 65-67.

Dimensions: Height: 5 3/8 inches (13.7 cm)

Condition: One bird head professionally restored, with good signs of use to one side in the form of staining and scratch marks. Otherwise intact and in very good condition overall. Custom mounted. A very fine example.

Provenance: Private NYC collection, brought to USA prior to 1948, to present owner by descent.


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