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Red-Polished Jar - Works of Art - Ariadne Galleries

Provenance: Caroline Ransom Williams (1872-1952), Toledo, gifted to The Toledo Museum of Art, 1943, accession no. 1943.54.
Toledo Museum of Art, 1943-2016.

So-called red-polished ware, with its lustrous rich hue and minimalist form, was one of the hallmarks of the Predynastic Naqada II period. This was an epoch of great growth and development, just before the historical record and the advent of Egypt’s first kings. Though their spare aesthetic suggests a simple manufacture, the process of fashioning these vessels was actually complex and labour-intensive. Made from native Egyptian Nile-silt, each vessel was carefully hand-formed from coils of clay and smoothed with the tempered addition of water. Once air-dried, the surface was coated with red ochre (iron oxide) and polished with a smooth stone to create a subtle sheen, before being fired in the kiln. The presence of red-ware vessels in a variety of contexts suggests that they were used both as decorative and functional tableware, as well as for symbolic use in the Afterlife. The simple lines, tactile surface, and rich colours of these wares are features that have guaranteed their enduring appeal to the modern eye, more than five thousand years after their creation.


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