Though we now associate the use of makeup with more aesthetic qualities, the daily ritual of make-up application also had a more practical purpose. The Egyptian would start by taking a grinding palette, often made of schist and either zoopomorphic in shape or with a detailed border. They would grind down galena, also known as kohl, on the palette and then mix it with an unguent that detracted flies and kept infectious bacteria at bay. This paste was deposited into a small jar, perhaps of white alabaster, lustrous black haematite, or a cool blue anhydrite. A tapered wand was dipped into this jar, and the black kohl mixture applied around the eyes. Its popularity was in part due to the aesthetics, in part to the medicinal value, but it also worked as a shield to the sun’s glare; ancient sunglasses if you will. Even in today’s world we see all these of these uses at play. Simply look to our own country for kohl's use as an aesthetic enhancement, to the American footballers who apply thick black lines to their cheekbones to reduce glare, and to India where little children have blackened eyes to keep infectious insects away.
ProvenanceAlbert Newall, Cape Town, South Africa; exported to the UK 1970s
Peter Newall, UK; by descent from the above
Julie Newall, UK; from the above, her husband
Albert Newall was an antiques dealer in South Africa and had a small collection of antiquities