Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ostracon with sketch of a calf

Late Period, Saite
Dynasty 26
reign of Psamtik I
664–610 B.C.
From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Deir el-Bahri, Tomb of Nespakashuty (TT 312, MMA 509a), MMA excavations, 1922–23
Limestone, ink
H. 11 × W. 9 cm (4 5/16 × 3 9/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1923
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 127
The courtyard rubbish outside Nespekashuty's tomb reflects long periods of use, a situation which complicates the dating and understanding of the painted ostraka found there. A recent stylistic study has allowed them to be grouped chronologically, however.

The horse (23.3.33) and leaping lion (23.3.28) are done with red preliminary sketches, finalized with a thin, supple black line; this technique resembles that of the Ramesside artists from Deir el Bahri. The incised crocodile (23.3.30) relates best to ostraka known from the Ptolemaic Period.

A third group, including a calf (23.3.27), blind harpist (23.3.31), and floral capitals (23.3.34, 23.3.35) appears to be contemporary with the tomb of Nespekashuty. On these, the preliminary drawing was executed in a pale red ink that was overlaid with a final line in darker red; wide contour lines were created by short overlapping strokes. The technique resembles that noted in preliminary drawings on the walls of the first chamber of Nespekashuty's tomb. These ostraka then may be discarded preliminary sketches for the tomb decoration.
Excavated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art at Thebes, found in the rubbish of the court that the tomb of Nespakashuty shares with the 11th Dynasty tomb (MMA 509). Received in the division of finds, 1923.

Winlock, Herbert E. 1923. "The Egyptian Expedition 1922–1923." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 18, no. 12, part 2 (December), p. 23, fig. 16.

Pischikova, Elena 2002. "Two Ostraka from Deir el-Bahri and the Lily Flower Motif in Twenty-sixth Dynasty Theban Tombs." In Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 39, pp. 197-202 fig. 7.

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