Fragment of Oinochoe Depicting Berenice II

Fragment of Oinochoe Depicting Berenice II
Faience; H. 15.5 cm; W. 7 cm; D. 3.7 cm
Alexandria Region; 246–221 BCE
Purchase, Edward S. Harkness Gift; The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 26.7.1016
Images copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resources, NY


This fragmentary oinochoe (jugs) is part of a large corpus found mostly in the cemeteries around Alexandria. Their funerary context and the standard scene decorating the vessels’ bodies, a queen standing before an altar while pouring a libation, suggest that these jugs were produced specifically to be placed within burials and that they were possibly also used in funerary rituals. Their production, which peaked under Arsinoe II and Berenice II, constitute the epitome of the encounter between the Greek and the Egyptian traditions. Indeed, while the shape, style, and Greek inscriptions on the vessels’ shoulders are quintessentially Hellenistic, the material and subject matter are fundamentally Egyptian. This fragment shows the artisans’ attention to the modeling of the details of the queen’s figure: Berenice II is dressed in Greek attire, with elegantly dressed hair and royal diadems decorating her head.

Thompson, Dorothy B. Ptolemaic Oinochoai and Portraits in Faience: Aspects of the Ruler-Cult. Oxford: Clarendon 1973.