Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Kohl Container Decorated with Bes-images

New Kingdom
mid-Dynasty 18
ca. 1400 B.C.
From Egypt
Steatite, glazed
H. 6 cm (2 3/8 in); w. 4 cm (1 9/16 in); d. 3.6 cm (1 7/16 in)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1926
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 116
As a measure for preventing disease, eye paint was second only to water in ancient Egypt. It was prepared from malachite and galena, ground on slate palettes, mixed with fat, and then applied around the eyes using a small stick, or applicator. Green eye paint, made from malachite, was primarily cosmetic. Galena is black in color, and the paint derived from it helped to reflect the glare of the Egyptian sun. More importantly, its lead content repelled flies and was deadly to the organisms that can cause eye disease and blindness.

On this green kohl tube is the image of the god Bes, whose gruesome figure was meant to repel the supernatural forces believed to cause eye disease.
Acquired by Lord Carnarvon (d. 1923) from Maurice Nahman, Cairo. Carnarvon Collection. Collection acquired by the Museum from Lady Carnarvon 1926.

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