ART FROM ANCIENT LANDS

18th Dynasty Alabaster Amphora Inscribed with the Royal Cartouche of Amenhotep II - X.0446
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 1427 BC to 1401 BC
Dimensions: 10.5" (26.7cm) high
Collection: Egyptian
Style: 18th Dynasty
Medium: Alabaster

Alabaster is a fine-grained, massive, translucent variety of gypsum, a hydrous calcium sulphate. Alabaster occurs naturally in many shades of color, from pure white to reddish-tan. Like all other forms of gypsum, alabaster forms by the evaporation of bedded deposits that are precipitated mainly from evaporating seawater. Indigenous to Egypt, alabaster has been quarried for more than seven thousand years from a source just a few miles behind the Valley of the Kings in ancient Thebes. This stone was prized by the pharaohs for its luminous properties. When held up to the light, the stone absorbs the glow and spreads it evenly throughout its structure, becoming almost translucent if carved thinly enough. The Ancient Egyptians used this wonderful material for many purposes, including household items, ritual objects, and for a number of different funerary uses such as sarcophagi and canopic jars.
Amenhotep II, also known by his Greek name Amenhophis, is believed to have been the seventh ruler of the 18th Dynasty. Although he is sometimes overshadowed by his father Tuthmosis III, with whom he may have served a co-regency as short as two years, his reign is considered to be pivotal by Egyptologists. As a young man, he was noted for his athletic prowess. One particular achievement, his legendary ability to shoot arrows through a copper plate while simultaneously steering a chariot, was recorded in numerous inscriptions including those at Giza and Thebes.
His athleticism certainly would have aided the young pharaoh on the battlefield, for his leadership was tested early on in his reign. Although the precise details are contested, it is clear that the Mediterranean ports of Syria rebelled shortly after hearing the news of his father’s death. Amenhotep led a campaign that reclaimed the lands across the Orontes River and secured his place as the rightful ruler of Egypt. With peace well established early on in his reign, the pharaoh embarked on an impressive building program, finishing the monuments and temples begun under his father as well as starting several of his own. Foremost among these constructions are the Temple of Horemakhet in Giza and the temple complex at Karnak.
This magnificent alabaster amphora with two handles features the royal cartouche of Amenhotep II prominently carved onto the front of the body and highlighted with blue pigment. Clearly this vessel was once closely associated with this great pharaoh. Perhaps it was presented to him as a gift in order to secure his favor. Perhaps he commissioned it himself and presented it to a victorious general as a symbol of his gratitude. Regardless, the luxurious nature of the alabaster and the refinement of the carving indicate that this amphora was clearly fit for a king. - (X.0446)


 

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