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profile: Cup


Historical period(s)
Meroitic Period, 2nd-4th century CE
Earthenware with paint
H x W x D (overall): 9.5 x 8.5 x 8.5 cm (3 3/4 x 3 3/8 x 3 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
The cup is made in a lotus or inverted bell shape with a flat bottom. The walls are extremely thin and this type of wheelmade pottery has been called egg-shell ware. This specimen has been broken and repaired. The fabric is a pinkish-beige, as visible in an area that has been chipped. The only decoration on the interior is an incised line running around the cup about 3 mm below the rim. The outside bears details painted in a brownish-black colored paint on an unpainted background. Two narrow bands encircle the cup near the upper edge. These lines appear to have been painted by placing the loaded brush in one spot and rotating the cup on a wheel. Both lines slightly overlap their starting points. Four painted lines encircle the cup near the base. The second and fourth lines from the bottom are thicker than the other two. The third line from the bottom has round dots painted over it at uneven intervals resembling round beads or seeds on a string. The central design of the cup is a running pattern of floral elments: thin vines ending in tiny leaves and floral elements and sprigs of grain wind about the cup, forming a natural, non-repetitive frieze.
This cup belongs to a ceramic style of the second to fourth centuries C.E. produced in the kingdom of Meroe (270 B.C.E.–350 C.E.), located in ancient Nubia (the region along the Nile River extending from what is now southern Egypt to Khartoum, capital of the Republic of Sudan). Excavations at cemeteries in Nubia have uncovered many examples of similar earthenware vessels decorated on the exterior with floral ornaments and bands in black and red paint.

To 1907
Unknown owner, Egypt, to 1907 [1]

From 1907 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), given by an unnamed individual in Egypt in 1907 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Pottery List, L. 1829, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Former owner
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919)
On View Location
Currently not on view
Ceramic, Vessel
earthenware, flower, lotus, Meroitic Period (ca. 300 BCE - 400 CE), Sudan
Collection(s) Area
Ancient Egyptian Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.