Horned Animal Between Two Baskets
4.5 x 14.5 inches (11.4 x 36.8 cm)
Probably from Egypt 200-500 CE
Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY

This relief depicts one centrally located animal flanked by two large baskets. The animal, possibly a canine of some sort, is shown in profile. Its limbs suggest movement to the left, with its front legs outstretched.  Its back legs are depicted with one leg forward and one back, giving the impression that the animal is moving. The animal has a long, thick torso with a long and thin neck. The animal's tail appears bushy. The animal has large, almond-shaped eyes and a long wrinkled snout with an open mouth. The ears and horns are reared backwards as the animal runs. Its features recall those of other animals depicted in the collections such as 1982.47.

The composition is symmetrical, with the animal flanked on either side by a pair of identical baskets containing an abundance of bread. The baskets have a double rim at the top and show a woven pattern. Their static nature contrasts with the movement of the animal. There also appears to be an object just under the animal’s front legs. This could possibly be a type of plant. The presence of the plant is puzzling.  Similar baskets and strange foliage are present in two other reliefs in the collection, 1982.52 and 1982.56.  

The breaks on the edges of the relief as well as on the surface do not interfere with the objects on the relief, which may indicate that they were deliberate breaks made by the forgers or looters. This relief is unique in the corpus of the Mayer relief in that its pigments are especially well preserved. Black lines outline the animal as well as the bread and breadbasket, accentuating the edges and grooves. This probably means that the artist intended to enhance the visibility of the objects seen from below. There is a great deal of yellow and brown earth pigments present on this relief, most likely ochres, siennas, or umbers. These colors are surprising to find so well-preserved on the relief but the black lines are present in several other reliefs in the collection such as, 1966.1.883 and 1982.48.  The well-preserved nature of the pigments may suggest that they were modern additions to the relief, although it is hard to determine if earth pigments are forgeries.

Although the black outlines, as well as the imagery of the basket in this particular type of animal, can be seen in other reliefs of the Mayer collection, there are a number of ways in which this relief is unique.  The lack of acanthus leaves, an animal flanked by two baskets, and the abundance of pigments make the relief stand out from the others.  The many anomalies of this relief, as well as the puzzling features such as the inexplicable small plant visible below the animal's front paws, might indicate that this work is a forgery.  The remarkable state of preservation of the pigments is particularly suspicious in that it is uncommon for the paint to stay this visible on the relief, avoiding fading and deterioration.  It may be possible to find out when the pigment was applied, either in ancient times or more recent, through scientific analysis.  This would confirm suspicions about the pigmentation's authenticity.

Jamie Dal Lago '13 is an Art History Major and Film and Media Studies Minor at Colgate University.