An agate bowl from Egypt
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"Amongst the treasures which have come down to us from the ancient Mediterranean world are vessels carved from semiprecious stones. 1 Agate, onyx and sardonyx, all subvarieties of chalcedony, seem to have been the stones most commonly used for this purpose, and of these agate was perhaps the most usual. Perfume bottles, aryballoi, cups and bowls of various shapes were carved out of these hard, colorful materials. Such chalcedony vessels continued to be valued in the medieval and Renaissance periods, when they were often mounted in gold and silver, set with precious stones. One example, a perfect illustration of the esteem in which these ancient vases were held, is Abbot Suger's chalice now in the National Gallery, Washington.4 So popular were these vases that relatively few have survived in their original, unadorned state. One which is so preserved is an agate bowl in the Museum of Art and Archaeology of the University of Missouri. ... The Missouri bowl 5 is simple in shape. Its base is very slightly convex, making it stand unevenly; its sides flare outward to an incurved rim, the upper edge of which is flat. The surface of the vase is highly polished. In contrast to the simplicity of the shape, the colors of the agate are rich and varied. They range from milky-white to various shades of brown-reddish-brown through honey-colored to dark brown. The milky-white striations form irregular patterns or swirl around the vase, with small honey-colored patches interspersed on the dark brown background. Around the rim runs a continuous uneven hand of pale brown. The whole vase is highly translucent; with the light shining through in differing degrees of intensity and its brilliant polished surface, the general effect is one of great subtlety and beauty."--Pages 28-29.
Originally published in: Muse, 1969, volume 03, pages 29-34
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