Gefäß in Gestalt eines Steinbocks About the Object

Gefäß in Gestalt eines Steinbocks

ca. 1400 v. Chr.


Vessels in animal shape made from clay were always valuable unique items, destined as receptacles for ointments and perfume. As was usual in Egypt, the form of an object was supposed to hint at the function or at the efficacy of its content as well as enhance it magically.

The Capricorn rests on its legs tucked under its body; the stylised horns serve as grip, melded together they are pulled down almost to the back. Between the ears is a spout with a flat lip, the details of the head a moulded three-dimensionally. Despite its practical function, this object represents a high quality and typical example of Egyptian animal sculpture. Characteristic is the strong abstraction towards the essence of the animal, while also carefully observing its separate features.

In Egypt, animals have an ambivalent significance, which can be negative or positive. The Capricorn, an animal of the inimical desert, is slaughtered as an enemy of the gods but, at the same time, it is the holy animal of the god of fertility, Min. Therefore, the Capricorn lent its shape to vessels containing toiletries: the shape of the vessel was supposed to enhance the eroticising potency of the contents.

Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst München (SMAEK)