Cosmetic jar of Tutankhamun with lion on lid

This cosmetic alabaster jar of Tutankhamun used as an unguent or perfume container, is a masterpiece of unusual form and design. The lid is adorned with the figure of a small recumbent lion, its mouth open and an ivory tongue sticking out.

Around the jar are scenes of lions and dogs hunting bulls and gazelles, incised and stained with red, green, and blue paint. The two columns on either side have lotus capitals supporting the head of the protector god, Bes. The jar rests on crossed bars ending in the heads of the traditional foes of Egypt.

Cosmetic Jar of Tutankhamun with lion on lid. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 62119
Cosmetic Jar of Tutankhamun with lion on lid
Photo: Kenneth Garrett

The lid of the cosmetic jar is what catches the eye of most people though. It’s the recumbent lion, laying along the lid with its tongue hanging out.

Carved from the same block of calcite as the lid itself, the opening of the jar was done by a swivel mechanism which was kept shut by a piece of string wrapped around knobs at the sides of the jar.

Decorated using blue paint on the eyes, ears, nose, claws, eyebrows and the tip of the tail, the lion is laying with its left paw on its right and it’s pink-stained ivory tongue hanging out.

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun, ca. 1332-1323 BC. Made of Egyptian alabaster (calcite). From the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 62119