Artistic Handcraft - Pottery from Upper Egypt

Vases, jars, flasks, a box with lid, a figurine of a bird with a crocodile on its back, zoomorphic callus removers. 
Origin and time: Egpyt, Asyût, approx. 1893 
Museum of Ethnology, Vienna
Inv No VO_47770 and others (Collection: Josef Szombathy)

Pottery from the Upper Egypt town of Asyût was a most popular souvenir brought home by Nile tourists and other travellers: Bowls, vases, mugs, bottles, flasks, cans, cups, boxes and callus removers. The souvenirs were made according to models of European silver manufacturers in a way European Historicism was understood by local craftsmen. The voluminous collection of these unique objects, comprising 58 articles, was acquired by Josef Szombathy, the first director of the Museum of Natural History, during his journey to Egypt in 1893.

In workshops in Asyût, an important trading centre for goods from Egypt, Europe and the Arabian Peninsula, about 100 men were occupied in pottery by modelling all kinds of bowls by means of potter’s wheels or in fitting together parts of clay in order to shape an object. After drying, the pottery was decorated by means of wooden or iron styli and stamps, and then covered with a slurry containing ferrous oxide. The red and black colour resulted from the time and temperature of the firing process. After firing, the still warm objects were polished with wax. Between 1915 and 1920, the manufacture of these imitations of historical models stopped abruptly because of no longer complying with the taste preferred by European and American tourists. The ceramic objects, once very much in demand, have been kept in various museum depots in the United States and Europe for a long time, unnoticed and neglected. 136 objects from15 collectors are deposited in the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna.