Cosmetic Vessel in the Shape of a Cat

Period: Middle Kingdom

Dynasty: Dynasty 12, early

Date: ca. 1990–1900 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt

Medium: Travertine (Egyptian alabaster), copper, quartz crystal, paint

Dimensions: h. 14 (5 1/2 in.); l. 13.7 cm (5 3/8 in.); w. 6.2 cm (2 7/16 in.)

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1990

Accession Number: 1990.59.1


The cat first appears in painting and relief at the end of the Old Kingdom, and this cosmetic jar is the earliest-known three-dimensional representation of the animal in Egyptian art. The sculptor demonstrates a keen understanding of the creature's physical traits, giving the animal the alert, tense look of a hunter rather than the elegant aloofness seen in later representations. The rock-crystal eyes, lined with copper, enhance the impression of readiness.