Cosmetic Spoon

New Kingdom, Ramesside

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.

Cosmetic Spoon, Ivory

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