Woman Playing the Lute

From the Theban area

Pottery, h. 21.5 cm, 8 ½ in.

British Museum, London

Small troupes of female musicians and dancers were all the rage at banquets during the 18th dynasty. They appear in wall paintings and reliefs in a number of tombs, especially at Thebes, but also at Memphis. The theme of a female musician occurs as a decorative element on various luxury items. Here, a pottery vase was made in the form of a woman lutanist. The figure was hand-modeled, or possibly moulded in parts which were then joined, and the details of the face, hands and feet, as well as the wig, gown and the lute were painted or emphasized in black over red. If it was not for the fact that the figure has a spout on the crown of the head and a discreet handle on the back it would be easy to think that this is a sculpture rather than a fully functioning vase. The maker of this object clearly felt that it was a vase first and a sculpture second- the base on which the figure stands is round, thus deriving from the bases of vessels, rather than being the usual rectangular base of a statuette.

Malek, Jaromir, Egypt; 4000 years of Art. London- Phaidon Press, 2003.