Measurements: 5.2 cm − height, 4 cm − width


Description: An Egyptian kohl pot in fine pale blue anhydrite with a bulbous body, short neck, flat flaring rim and a fitted flat lid with central protrusion for sealing; standing on a flattened round base. The piece has an opening wide enough for the insertion of a finger or kohl applicator.


Small alabaster and anhydrite pots were used by the Egyptians to hold perfumes, cosmetics, creams and oils. This particular pot held kohl, an ancient eye cosmetic traditionally made by grinding green malachite or black galena, which had been worn traditionally since the Protodynastic Period of Egypt. Due to the heat and scorching sun, Egyptians were careful to treat their skin with creams and oils to prevent burning and dehydration, and with cosmetics to keep the sun's rays out of their eyes. In addition to protecting the user's eyes from the sun's rays, mothers would also apply kohl to their infants' eyes soon after birth; some did this to strengthen the child's eyes, and others believed it could prevent the child from being cursed by the evil eye. This piece represents the standardised shape of the kohl pots developed during the Middle Kingdom, with its small squat body with a flat bottom, a wide, flat rim, and a flat, disc-shaped lid.


Provenance: Ex. English collection, 1930’s.


Reference: Christie's sale 9540, lot. 315.

Brooklyn Museum

Further reading: Kuhlman, K. L., The Contents and Significance of Egyptian Alabaster Jars, 2012.


Period: Middle Kingdom, 2030-1640 BC


Condition: Very fine, intact, minor chipping to the rim and chipping to the base, with some encrustations on the neck and inside, some crazing to the surface of the body making it coarse in places, stress crack across the bottom of the vessel. Lid intact with minor crazing.

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