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A Sumerian Calcite Cylinder Vessel, ca. 2100-1600 BC

MV1802

Of creamy, lightly banded calcite, the tall cylindrical vessel is slightly waisted, curving out to sit on a flat base and opening to a flared rim.

Background: Because clay was the most abundant material found in the Mesopotamian valley, stone had to be imported due to its rarity in the area. Alabaster (calcite), gypsum, lapis lazuli, limestone and marble were the most popular imports. Sumerians traded crops grown from their fertile soil for the stone, as well as metal and wood. The growth of powerful ruling families in urban centers led to a demand for luxury goods, particularly stone votive objects mainly used in the temples and tombs such as the famous Royal Graves at Ur (ca. 2500 BC).  The durability of stone, as well as the time and effort that went into creating vessels and other votive objects increased their value over clay and their popularity throughout Sumer.

Dimensions: Height: 7 inches (17.75 cm)

Condition: Despite minor losses to the rim, intact and in excellent condition overall.

Provenance: The Hauge Collection of Ancient & Iranian Art, assembled between 1962 and 1966.  Foreign service brothers, Victor and Osborne Hauge, together with their wives Takako and Gratia, assembled their collection of Persian, Japanese, Chinese, and Southeast Asian works of fine and folk art while stationed overseas with the US government after WWII.   In consultation with academics and dealers, the Hauges assembled over two decades of what  former Freer Gallery of Art director Harold Stern described in 1957 as "without doubt one of the finest private collections in the world".   Victor and Takako published Folk Traditions in Japanese Art to coincide with a traveling exhibition held from 1978 at the Cleveland Museum of Art; Japan House Gallery, New York; and Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.  Much of their collection was donated to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute culminating in an exhibition and published catalogue in 2000. The balance of the collection, including this object, was inherited by descent in 2016.   


Category: $1000 - $5000, Stone, Vessels

Type: Near East

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