Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Cosmetic Spoon

New Kingdom, Ramesside
Dynasty 19–20
ca. 1295–1070 B.C.
From Egypt
L. 9.6 cm (3 3/4 in.); W. 5.6 cm (2 3/16 in.); D. 1.1 cm (7/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace and Russell and Judith Carson Gifts, 1994
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 124
Decorated spoons were especially popular in the courtly circles of the New Kingdom. In their forms and ornament, allusions were made to themes and myths of rebirth and renewal, though their actual use is poorly understood.

This ivory spoon, its symmetry enhanced by a fine interplay of shapes and lines, is datable to the nineteenth dynasty. The discoid bowl of the spoon represents the life-giving sun. The handle decoration consists mainly of a compressed version of the shrine sistrum, a rattle that is the emblem of Hathor, the great goddess of fruitfulness. In the sistrum Hathor wears as headgear a small volute-framed shrine with a cutout doorway where the rattling elements were strung. Here the shrine is reduced to a framed cutout, still flanked by volutes, above her triangular face and cow's ears.

The overall composition is a small visual conceit. Most simply it is a reinterpretation of the symbolic imagery of mirrors, in which the sun and Hathor are also associated. But here the sun-disk is perhaps actually being assimilated to the percussion housing of the sistrum or it may even be thought of as a divinity appearing in the doorway of the shrine sistrum.
Purchased from Peter Sharrer, New Jersey, 1994. Purchased by him from Nicholas Wright, London. Published in the MMA Bulletin, Fall 1994.

Related Objects

Cosmetic Spoon in the Shape of Swimming Woman Holding a Dish

Date: ca. 1390–1352 B.C. Medium: Travertine (Egyptian alabaster), steatite Accession: 26.2.47 On view in:Gallery 119

Cosmetic Box with a Swivel Top

Date: ca. 1550–1458 B.C. Medium: Ivory, Egyptian Blue Accession: 16.10.425 On view in:Gallery 114

Handle of a Cosmetic Spoon in the Form of a Leopard

Date: ca. 1390–1353 B.C. Medium: Travertine (Egyptian alabaster) Accession: 11.215.715 On view in:Gallery 120

Cosmetic set of Kohl Tube and Applicator, Razor, Tweezers, Whetstone, and Mirror

Date: ca. 1550–1458 B.C. Medium: Bronze or copper alloy, stone, ivory, wood Accession: 26.7.837-related On view in:Gallery 114

Cosmetic spoon

Date: ca. 1550–1295 B.C. Medium: Ivory Accession: 51.172.5 On view in:Gallery 117