New Kingdom, Dynasty XIX (ca. 1200 BC)
Provenance unknown, possibly Deir el-Medina, later Drovetti Collection, 1824
Inv. Nr. C. 7052
Papyrus was an expensive medium, and therefore potsherds and flakes of limestone (called ostraka or singular ostrakon) were used instead, for all manner of contracts, receipts, letters, stories, writing exercises and even doodles. These ostraka thus provide an insight into the private lives and thoughts of Egyptians. This magnificently drawn sketch of a lady doing a back bend defies many of the conventions of Egyptian art. The lady is semi naked, wearing a black tartan sarong and little else apart from gold hoop earrings (an expensive ornament for anyone in antiquity). She is depicted bending in perfect profile, not the usual stiff upright pose with frontal shoulders and profile legs. Here the contours of the far leg and arm are shown, as if to prove that they exist. The dancer’s wavy hair flows wildly free, but her earring defies gravity. The liveliness and quality of draughtsmanship of this semi-erotic sketch, demonstrates a high level of skill and may suggest that it was the work of a royal artisan working in the Valley of the Kings. Like many other ostraka, it may have come from Deir el-Medina.