Glaskelch mit Königsnamen

Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst München


The small chalice in the shape of a lotus flower is the most famous glass vessel from ancient Egypt. It bears the royal name of Thutmose III in a cartouche and because of this inscription belongs to the oldest securely datable glass vessels ever. The technology of glass production had been developed only a short while previously in the Middle East. Therefore, it is likely that the king had brought it with him from one of his military campaigns against the Mitanni Empire.

The chalice consists of light-blue glass with dark-blue and yellow glass threads and drops that are melted down and fused onto the vessel. As remains of a black substance inside show, this precious vessel was not used for drinking, but rather for storing a cosmetic product, probably eye make-up. At all times ointments, oils and make-up were preserved in vessels made from precious materials, often shaped in figurative designs. Particular appreciation was bestowed on import ware from abroad, from Syria, Crete or Mycenae, as is attested by vessels from these countries discovered in Egypt. The new material, glass, was particularly coveted at the royal court, as is confirmed by jewellery, amulets and small vessels with the king’s name.

In 1834, this lotus shaped chalice was depicted by Ippolito Rosellini who had accompanied the decipherer of the hieroglyphics, J.-F. Champollion, during his expedition to Egypt in his Monumenti. Through the British collector Dodwell the vessel came to Europe back in 1830 and was acquired by Ludwig I for Munich.


Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst München (SMAEK)