Flower Calyx

Objekt of the Month September 2023

Ein Kelch in Gestalt einer Lotosblüte aus blaugrüner Fayence© SMÄK, M. Franke

The slender body of this vessel, slightly swinging upwards, imitates the shape of a flower calyx, the individual petals of which taper to a point at the top. They are sculpted in flat relief. They do not quite reach the rim of the vessel, which is separated by a narrow horizontal bulge. This deviation from the natural model can also be observed in other examples of this type of vessel and is perhaps an indication of a particular workshop. The foot of the vessel starts straight like a plant stem and then swings out to a round base; from below it is slightly hollowed out.

The plant converted into permanent material is a lotus flower. In Egypt, two types of lotus were known: the white lotus (Nymphea lotus) whose flower has the shape of a deep cup with rounded petals, and the blue lotus (Nymphea caerula) with a cup-shaped flower and pointed petals. Only in the late period the Red Lotus (Nymphea nelumbo) is added as a third species. The Blue Lotus, which is transposed here, exudes a heavy, sweet fragrance; in the paintings and reliefs of the tombs it is often shown in the hands of women and men sniffing the flowers. It is also among the offerings to the gods.

The faience goblets in the shape of a lotus flower are known only since the New Kingdom; they are a new creation of the first half of the 18th Dynasty (from about 1450 BC). Mostly the Blue Lotus is used as a model, but there are also examples for the transformation of the White Lotus into a vessel. In the development of this type, there are rather low, projecting goblet forms at the beginning, which gradually change in proportions to slender, tall forms. The elegant goblets of the late New Kingdom are increased in the Third Intermediate Period (1080-750 B.C.) to manneristic, overslender forms. In the process, the natural model of the flower recedes into the background, and the goblets become vehicles for figural scenes with a religious background.

The lotus has an important symbolic meaning in Egypt, together with the papyrus it is the most frequently depicted plant at all. It is the symbol of the cycle of the sun and thus a symbol of the sun god: The blue lotus closes its blossoms in the evening to open them again at sunrise, according to the cycle of the sun god, who dives into the primordial waters in the evening to emerge regenerated in the morning. Thus the lotus becomes not only a symbol of the sun god, but beyond that the cyclic course of life itself. It stands for rebirth and fertility, which corresponds to the color symbolism of green and turquoise and is also reflected here in the color of the material.

Faience lotus goblets were precious drinking vessels used in the royal court and among the upper classes on special occasions. This vessel form also appears in cultic contexts, in various rituals, but the goblets are then made of more valuable materials, precious metal, glass or alabaster.

H. 15,7 cm, ø 9,2 cm
New Kingdom, 18. Dynasty, ca. 1400 BC
Inventory number ÄS 1574
(Exhibited in the Room “Arts and Crafts”)