A Gandhara Schist Cosmetic Tray with Sea Monster, ca. 2nd - 3rd century CE
A Gandhara Schist Cosmetic Tray with Sea Monster, ca. 2nd - 3rd century CE

A Gandhara Schist Cosmetic Tray with Sea Monster, ca. 2nd - 3rd century CE


Regular price€4.187,95
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An exquisitely detailed green-grey schist cosmetic tray, divided by a "T-shape," the upper register portrays a winged sea monster, with curled, serpentine tail of a fish.  The lower half of the tray is subdivided into two quadrants by sturdy walls thus creating wells for mixing ancient cosmetics. The bottom surface of the wells is decorated with incised flower petals that radiate outward from the center whereas the circumference of the tray is decorated with a cross-hatch border pattern. On the reverse, the smooth surface is decorated with an incised eight-petal flowerhead echoing the floral overtures once more.

Stone palettes of this type, also known as "toilet trays," are found in areas of Bactria and Gandhara and usually represent Greek mythological scenes. Some of them are attributed to the Indo-Greek period in the second and first century BCE. Many are considered to be of later production, around the first century CE during the time of the Indo-Parthians, but thereafter, they practically disappear.

Scholars have suggested that these trays were used to mix cosmetic products, a comparison to ancient Egyptian cosmetic palettes of a similar function.The Ancient Orient Museum in Istanbul was able to analyze the remains of substances adhering to a number of stone palettes, that turned out to be colored cosmetic powders akin to blush. A frieze discovered in Butkara shows a woman using a mirror as she puts her fingers into one of these stone palettes. These rare objects, for their number barely surpasses 150 pieces, excite the curiosity of the scholars, as they provide evident borrowings of art from various civilizations that succeeded each other in the Indian subcontinent: Greek, Scythian, Parthian besides the Indian background, or remote Roman elements.

Condition: Minor deposits to the body with expected small losses around the edge indicating use that do not detract, otherwise the tray is intact and in very good condition overall.

Dimensions: Diameter: 4 3/4 inches (12 cm)

Provenance: Private NYC collection acquired from the US trade, with old collection label

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Furthermore, we conduct due diligence to ensure the item, to the best of our knowledge, has not been illegally obtained from an excavation, architectural monument, public institution, or private property. Wherever possible, reference is made to existing collections or publications.Wherever possible, reference is made to existing collections or publications.

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