Notable Acquisition: Kohl Tube

This small container was most likely used to hold kohl, a cosmetic preparation for darkening the eyelids. The object was formed by applying dark green glass around a mandrel. Trails of opaque red and opaque white glass were then applied and marvered to create the striped and zigzag geometric pattern that encircles the body of the vessel. Finally, the handles and foot were attached.

Kohl Tube, Islamic, possibly made in Egypt or the Levant, seventh or eighth century. Applied, marvered. H. 10.4 cm, W. 2 cm, Diam. (max.) 1.7 cm (2011.1.3).

Kohl Tube, Islamic, possibly made in Egypt or the Levant, seventh or eighth century. Applied, marvered. H. 10.4 cm, W. 2 cm, Diam. (max.) 1.7 cm (2011.1.3).

The simple decoration of this object suggests that it was made in the seventh or eighth century. The use of kohl has a very long history. Tomb paintings provide evidence of its use in Egypt, and numerous rod-formed kohl tubes were manufactured in Iran between the sixth and fourth centuries B.C. In Roman times, glassblowers fashioned single-, double-, and even quadruple-chambered kohl tubes, examples of which are found in the Museum’s collection. Traditionally, kohl was made of powdered lead sulfide mixed with oil or fat. It was extracted from its narrow container by means of a rod or spoon-shaped applicator. Kohl is still used as a cosmetic today, but because of the risk of lead contamination, modern manufacturers use carbon.

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