Collecting Masterpieces
Photo of persian-khajal-vase-tapir-luristan-archeology-galerie-golconda

 

Ancient Near and Middle East
PERSIAN KHAJAL VASE IN THE SHAPE OF A TAPIR
Ancient Persia / Luristan 

 

Object :
Nº 1557
Medium :
Bronze
Dimensions :
Height: 18 cm (7”)
Bibliography :
Published in “Collecting Masterpieces, Part One” by Beryl Cavallini, pages 18-19 - Exhibited at the Musée de Montélimar in France during the « Parfums de Grands Maîtres » exhibition, on July 1st / December 31, 2016 and published in their catalogue page 9

Excellent vase in bronze today covered with a fine patina probably serving as a container for the kohl powder used as eye makeup. The vase has an elongated conical form, going in at the neck before widening again. It rests on the back of a small animal with a pointed muzzle, which seems to be a tapir. Good antique patina of adhered earth, some signs of incrustation due to the oxidisation of the bronze. Possible ancient restoration to one leg.

3000 years ago these two kohl vases in bronze from Luristan were part of the everyday feminine beauty. One of them still holds its spoon, the handle decorated with an ibex head, while the other one, elongated and with the body like a little tapir, is quite amusing. Kohl, is a mineral powder used as makeup, but also as a medicine since the most ancient times. Its black or dark grey colour (Kohl meaning black in Arabic) is due to a mixture of lead, galena and sulphur, all bound together either with animal fat, olive oil or even bitumen. We don’t know how the Egyptians invented 4000 years ago such a mixture with antibiotic properties. In fact, it is the toxicity of lead which transforms it as a biocide. The Greco-Roman manuscripts of Dioscorides discuss this custom of using kohl as a collyrium, although it may have served to protect the eyes from the intense rays of the sun. Ancient iconography shows the kings and queens of Egypt with large eyes underlined with black, causing this habit to be associated with membership of the Egyptian nobility. In fact, this was not the case, as it has been discovered that this fashion was widely common amongst men as much as women and even children. It is also plausible that they thought that applying eye makeup in this way, by drawing the Wadjet on oneself, could provide protection from the god Horus. It has to be considered that the needs of ancient medicine created the fashion still in use today. Thereafter the Egyptians, as well as all of the people from the Middle East, Berbers, Arabs and Persians liked to see their large dark eyes adorned with it. It is applied to the inner rim of the eyelid using a stick or a very thin spoon. Those ornamented with animals, like the ram of this vase, are part of the stylistic index of ancient Persia. Such humoristic representations like the small tapir are very much sought after by fervent collectors.