Decorated jar

Roman Period

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 137

Many artworks of the Roman Period in Egypt represent the taste of wealthy urban merchant and rich farming classes of Roman Egypt. Wide trade of luxury works is evident, and Greco-Roman style dominates.

Since Egyptian pharaohs had first authorized Greek trading colonies and employed Greek mercenaries in the seventh century BC., there was a considerable Greek presence in Egypt. With Alexander's conquest, Macedonian Greek Ptolemies ruled as successors to the pharaohs, and Ptolemaic Greek and eastern Mediterranean soldiery was heavily settled in parts of Egypt. Although the Ptolemaic kings maintained traditional Egyptian religious and political forms, elite society, of mixed Greek and Egyptian descent, aspired to Greek culture in many respects. With the replacement of a Ptolemaic pharaoh in Memphis and Alexandria by a Roman emperor in Rome, the status of Greek culture and art, if anything, increased. However, multiple cultural influences were t play, and their reconciliation differed, depending on the identity of the patron and on whether personal, public, religious, or funerary purposes were in question.

This jar is said to be from the Fayum; vases of this type were a principal production of the Memphite faience workshop. A single fine blue glaze was used, but the color pools to a violet-blue in the incised decoration covering the vase. Below several registers with vegetal decoration is one that includes a winged animal, a rabbit, a gazelle(?), a bird, and a griffin. The bottom of the vessel is in the form of a lotus calyx.

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