The Nabataean tribes first encroached upon Jordan and the surrounding area sometime in the 6th century BC. Thought of originally as a nomadic people they settled in the area, existing as an autonomous kingdom until the 2nd century AD, when they were defeated by the Romans. Since the 1st century BC, the Nabateans developed a specific and characteristic style in their pottery production, without any reference to the Hellenistic artistic tradition. Characterised by bright red terracotta and fine modelling, Nabataean pottery usually displays painted decorations and a smooth and matte finishing. Many different shapes have been recovered, including huge jars, pots, flacons for storage of perfumes and ointments, and bowls. One of the most interesting and most recognisable aspects of Nabatean terracotta wares is the thinness of the vessels’ walls, known as egg-shell vessels. Such vessels, featuring a thickness of 1-3 mm and a metallic hardness, were mostly shallow open bowls, extremely difficult to be potted on the potter’s wheel. With the Roman conquest of the area around 150 AD, Nabatean pottery production started losing its thinness and polychrome decoration, becoming more crude and simple.
Nabataean Red Terracotta Cup with Floral Decorations
A finely potted red terracotta Nabatean cup featuring a conical body with outward-flared sides and a flat everted rim. The vessel’s thin walls are adorned with ornamental motifs painted in a dark red slip. A dotted motif pattern features underneath the rim and progresses downwards to the sides, where spiralling tendrils and foliage are arranged vertically to form a rich decorative design. To the inside, the cup displays spiral marks showing how the clay was moulded during the production process. The vessel sits on a short out-splayed foot.
Provenance: From an important collection of Near Eastern pottery formed by a gentleman, deceased, before 1988; passed by descent to his family in London and Geneva.
Condition: Fine condition, some earthy encrustations remain on the surface.