The head of an ancient Egyptian alabaster cat-shaped cosmetic vessel with eyes made of rock crystal. 12th Dynasty, Middle Kingdom, 1990–1900 BCE.

Cosmetic Vessel in the Shape of a Cat

Middle Kingdom, Early 12th Dynasty (ca. 1990–1900 B.C.)The cat first appears in painting and relief at the end of the Old Kingdom, and this cosmetic jar is the earliest-known three-dimensional representation of the animal in Egyptian art.

The sculptor demonstrates a keen understanding of the creature’s physical traits, giving the animal the alert, tense look of a hunter rather than the elegant aloofness seen in later representations. The rock-crystal eyes, lined with copper, enhance the impression of readiness.Height 14 cm Width 6.2 cm Length 13.7 cmEgyptian alabaster, copper and quartz crystal