Alabaster and other dedicatory stone vessels had been favoured in Mesopotamia since the Uruk period. Alabaster, hardstone, calcite multi-compartmented cosmetic containers were used as gifts dedicated to the goddess Inanna from the Early Dynastic period (circa 2900-2330 BC). Almost the entire genre of those stone votive kohl vessels are decorated with zoomorphic designs in relief, the conventional repertoire including lion and bull motifs. Within the realm of Mesopotamian art and religion, the scorpion is a symbol of fertility. In the Neo-Assyrian period, the scorpion might have been used as much as a symbol of fertility as its preceding counterparts. However, numerous elaborately executed cylinder seals and metal vessels featuring scorpion’s motifs were excavated from Neo-Assyrian aristocratic tombs. Those materials indicate that images of a scorpion might also have been used as a royal emblem, closely associated with the Sargon II’s Queen. This object might have been a votive gift dedicated to Ishtar as the scorpion is one of her significant associations, or it might have been a funerary offering to Sargon II’s Queen.
Neo-Assyrian Alabaster Cosmetic Vessel with Scorpion
A finely engraved Neo-Assyrian two-compartment, stone cosmetic container, with a scorpion sculpted in an idealised naturalistic style.
It features a wide rim with two evenly executed, rounded receptacles on the top. Its slightly convex walls rise from a flat, rectangular base, extending into gently carinated shoulders, which lead to a narrowing neck. A scorpion is engraved on the body, its claws, legs and rounded body sculpted in an extremely naturalistic manner. Its tail and raised stinger are rendered in a series of continuously connected globules, which is a typical ornamental practise frequently seen on Neo-Assyrian cylinder seals.
Condition: Very fine condition, with minor chippings to the encrusted rim