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Fragment from the Palace of Apries

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek


The examination and analysis of the painted fragment point in different directions. Part of the chromatic scheme is well attested. Copper-based pigments such as the synthetic Egyptian blue and were commonly used. Calcium carbonate experienced wide application in time and space from the 5th Dynasty to the Roman period and the use of orpiment is certainly attested from the Middle Kingdom and has been identified on a number of monuments. But the discovery of what appears to be a lead white beneath a layer of orpiment is unusual since the introduction of artificial lead based pigments usually are attributed to the influence of Graeco-Roman tradition. The discrepancies in these preliminary results call for further research.

Description of object

Visible on this fragtment are the remains of an inscription: two hieroglyphs representing, respectively, a pair of cow’s horns and a road bordered by bushes. The characters are the beginning of the name of the jackal god Wepwawet, which was composed of the cow horns sign, followed by three signs for a road. To the left of the inscription is a small part of a large fether which adorned a Wepwawet standard.

Choice of methods

Visual examination

  • Macroscopic
  • Microscopic in situ

Technical imaging

  • UV
  • VIL


  • Cross section
  • Microscopy
  • EMP
  • XRF
  • FT-IR
  • GC-MS
  • LA-ICP-MS:

Visual examination

The fragment is particularly colourful: the horns are painted grey, the sign for a road is a shade of blue and the feather is yellow outlined in red.

Technical imaging

UVL “UVL imaging displays a strong blue luminescence on the white ground. Both the red, yellow, brown and blue colour appears completely dark and are composed of an absorbent and non-fluorescing material.

VIL The VIL-imaging reveals extensive luminescence properties of Egyptian blue. A regular distribution of relatively uniform grains shining bright white are observed on the main part of the fragment whereas a more dense concentration is restricted to the sign for a road, which in tungsten light is blue.

Other types of investigation

µ-XRF analysis. The area of analysis (1 × 1 cm) covers all colours represented on the fragment.

White µ-XRF spectrometry shows a high concentration of Ca on the white ground between which is ascribed to calcium carbonate. However, analysis of the white ground beneath the yellow colour reveals a high concentration of Pb suggesting the use of lead white as a preparatory layer in this particularly area.

Red µ-XRF analysis shows evidence of Fe in the area of the red outline suggesting the use of hematite or red ochre. The red/orange underdrawing found next to the blue colour shows a content of As and is most likely realgar.

Blue A high concentration of Cu is found in the blue area which together with VIL-imaging confirms the use of Egyptian blue. * Yellow* µ-XRF spectrometry of the yellow reveals a high concentration of As and S suggesting the use of orpiment. A cross-section is made to get information on the stratigraphy of the pigments. Analysis with LA-ICP-MS of the cross-section shows a content of Pb both in the yellow layer and the white layer underneath.

Brown According to the spectral analysis the brown colour contains Fe, Mn, Cu and a small amount of Cl. Both Cu and Cl can be attributed to a copper-containing green pigment (malachite or Egyptian green) found underneath the brown layer. The small amount of Cl could simply be a degradation of the copper. Fe and Mn is due to umbra.


C. Brøns, K. Lund Rasmussen, M. Melchiorre di Crescenzo, R. Stacey, A. Lluveras-Tenorio (2018) Painting the Palace of Apries I: Ancient binding media and coatings of the reliefs from the Palace of Apries, Lower Egypt, Heritage Science 6:6 “”:

S. Hedegaard, T. Delbey, C. Brøns, K. Rasmussen, Painting the Palace of Apries II: ancient pigments of the reliefs from the Palace of Apries, Lower Egypt. Heritage Science. 7 (2019), doi:10.1186/s40494-019-0296-4.

T. Bagh (2011), Finds from W.M.F. Petrie’s Excavations in Egypt in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, in Meddelelser fra NyCarlsberg Glyptotek. No. 13 Copenhagen, 37-43.

M. Jørgensen (2009), Egypt IV Late Egyptian Sculpture 1080 BC-AD 400. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, 90, cat. No. 26.2.

  • ÆIN 1059
  • Fragment
  • 26th dyn. 589-568 B.C.E.
  • Egypt: Early Dynastic Period
  • Limestone
  • W.M.F. Petrie’s excavations at the north end of Memphis unearthed in 1909 remains of the royal palace of Apries. That same year the Glyptotek in Copenhagen received a number of painted limestone relief fragments belonging to the Palace.
  • H. 10.4 cm.; W. 14 cm.; D. 4 cm.

Selected photos

  • _in1059_t
  • _in1059_uv_t
  • _in1059_vil_t
  • _in1059_d
  • _in1059_mi_yellow
  • _in1059_mi_green
  • _in1059_mi_blue
  • A1_violet_point_picture
  • A1-area__ca_k12_
  • A1-area__pb_m1_
  • A1-area__as_k12_
  • A2_red_point_picture
  • A2-area__as_k12_
  • A2-area__ca_k12_
  • A2-area__fe_k12_
  • A2-area__pb_l1_
  • A2-area__s_k12_
  • A2-area__sr_k12_
  • A6_white_point_pic
  • A6_area_map__ca_k12_
  • A6_area_map__cu_k12_
  • A6_area_map__fe_k12_
  • A6_area_map__mn_k12_