VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Carved ostrich egg
2447-4
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Carved ostrich eggs were one of the most valued types of decorative pieces of art in the East. Due to their fragility, not many of them have been preserved until today, and each of them is valued as a masterpiece of the very complicated art of eggshell carving. This sample is characterized by ideal proportions of the ornament and its peculiarity, as well as by the use of the two-layer painting technique.

History of the Object
Ostrich egg shell is one of the earliest craftwork materials in history. It was used starting from the Stone Age in all areas where ostriches are found – from Central Asia to Africa. Ostrich eggshell was used to make decorations, mosaics and inlays. Whole eggshells with cutaway tops also served as vessels. In the East, ostrich eggshells were decorated with paintings, carving, engraving and blackening. Multi-layer techniques were often used. Creation of a two-color painting, for which the thinnest white inner layer served as a background, required extremely high precision from the carver. Such vessels, decorated with maps, scenes from ancient Iranian epos or portraits of historical figures were precious objects that only well-off people could afford to have. The collections of the MAE RAS contain two decorative ostrich eggs. This sample is a two-color carved eggshell with five cartouches and multi-petal rosettes. In the center of the lower rosette, there is an image of a woman’s face. The cartouches contain sitting dervishes holding Sufi attributes in their hands: ritual axes, horns, and a baton with a bull-head top. Judging by these images, we can assume that this eggshell comes from Iran.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
ostrich egg shell 
Measurements
Height 14.5 cm Length maximum length of circle - 38 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Iran 
Geography
Iran 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th Century 
Function
Decorative 
Acquisition
Bought from Aleksandr Romaskevich 
Copyright
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) RAS 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Russian Federation 
Museum
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) Russian Academy of Sciences 
Credit line
 

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