Feature object: Painter's ivory palette, New Kingdom

Feature object: Painter's ivory palette, New Kingdom
As lovers of Egyptology, most of us probably have favorites when it comes to antiquities that resonate on a personal level for us.
I like scribal palettes. Usually these were simple pieces of wood with 2 slots for red and black pigment for writing and a groove to store reeds. As an artist I particularly like this beautiful painter's palette which has been carved from a single piece of ivory with 6 slots to hold pigment 'cakes' (which many artists call 'pans'). To use the paints the artist simply wets their brush and rubs it on the surface of the paint until it becomes liquid enough for their needs. I particularly like the fact that the palette has been used.
What wonderful things were painted by the person who once held that palette?
At the top of the palette is the cartouche of Amenhotep III and reads (from right to left) Nebmaatre beloved of Ra. Egyptian paints used a variety of minerals such as malachite and artificial pigments (blue) to create stunning colours which have lasted for thousands of years. The pigments were ground finely and held together with a binding agent, usually gum arabic which is the dry sap of the acacia tree. By combining the pigment with a binding agent, the paint becomes 'sticky' enough to adhere to a surface.
Although there are many synthetic paints and binding agents, many modern painters (including myself) still use these materials. From personal experience, these gum arabic paints (perhaps unsurprisingly) work extremely well on papyrus.


  1. Garry Willock It's a painter's palette. Cosmetics were usually ground on stone and stored in jars/pots with lids. Here's a nice container for kohl or eye make-up from a similar period. (18th Dynasty)
    google.com - Wooden cosmetic pot of Ahmose of Peniati - Google Arts & Culture

  2. R PALMER I do too, since I was a child. Things from the past have more meaning in your heart & soul.

  3. People are forgetting the words-Respect-Caring-Help each other. If we do one good deed a day, a week, a month, we could change the world.


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