Terracotta bottle in the shape of a female lute player


British Museum

British Museum

The form of this bottle is often compared to the female musicians shown in Eighteenth-Dynasty (1550-1295 BC) banquet scenes on the walls of Theban tombs. The women depicted in the tombs are usually naked, but the one represented by this vase wears a long dress with the hem and other details painted in black. Parts of the small lute she carries are also painted in black, and it seems likely from the markings on the soundbox that it represents one made of tortoiseshell.There are no other pottery vessels known that are exactly comparable to this one. The vessel belongs to a broader category of New Kingdom (1550-1070 BC) figured vases that are most commonly in the form of animals or female figures. It is possible that this type of vessel was used as a container for human milk and, because of the association with life and rebirth, they may also have had a magical dimension for their owners.

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  • Title: Terracotta bottle in the shape of a female lute player
  • Date Created: -1479/-1352
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 23.00cm; Width: 7.50cm; Depth: 5.70cm; Weight: 0.24kg
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: mould-made; tooled; painted; burnished; slipped
  • Registration number: .5114
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Thebes
  • Period/culture: 18th Dynasty
  • Material: pottery
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Salt, Henry. Previous owner/ex-collection Salt, Henry