One of the most distinctive aspects of the ancient Egyptians were their decorated eyes. During all dynasties, eye makeup was a prerequisite for both men and women. The Egyptians decorated their eyes with great aesthetic care. Eye cosmetics bestowed beauty and style as well as other gifts.
The tradition of outlining the eyes with pigment to create an almond shape and the importance placed upon this practice, transcends our western concept of eye makeup. Cosmetics were used for the purpose of beautification, but they did more than enhance the face. The ancient Egyptians took a holistic approach to eye makeup, it also served medicinal, magical and spiritual practices.
The Egyptians used two kinds of eye makeup:
Udju - made from green malachite (an ore of copper) from Sinai. Sinai and its mines were considered the spiritual dominion of Hathor, ancient goddess of beauty, joy, love and women.
Galena - the natural grey ore of lead (lead sulphide). Galena was found around Aswan and on the Red Sea Coast. It was also among the materials brought back by Pharaoh Hatshepsut's expedition to Punt. Galena is still used in Egypt under the name kohl.
The cosmetic materials were powdered on a palette and then mixed with a substance, (usually ointments derived from animal fat) to make the powder adhere to the eye. Eye makeup equipment (palettes, grinders, applicators) are widespread in burials and seem to have been essential items for the afterlife. Small containers of galena have been found in tombs stored in leather or canvas pouches, small jars or in hollow reeds. Everyone had galena powder, however while the poor used sticks to apply it, the wealthy had intricately carved applicators of ivory or other precious materials. As Egyptian antiquities for sale go, these items are quite hard to find on the market, so this is a particularly special object.
Condition: Very fine. A lovey bronze implement.
Dimensions: Length: 7 cms.
Provenance: Ex. Helios Gallery, UK.