alabaster - A white or yellowish white translucent stone, which is a type of gypsum found in England and Italy. Its softness makes it easy to carve, but also easily broken, soiled, and weathered.
The "alabaster" of ancient Egypt and Rome is actually a much harder stone — onyx-marble, which is a calcium carbonate, whereas ordinary gypsum is a calcium sulfate.
Examples of works in alabaster:
Egypt, (4th-5th Dynasties, c. 2575-2323 BCE), Headrest with Fluted Pedestal, calcite (Egyptian alabaster, or onyx-marble), 9 x 7 7/8 x 3 3/4 inches (22.9 x 19.9 x 9.3 cm), Michael C. Carlos Museum. See Egyptian art and fluted.
Egypt, Cat, c. 1991-1783 BCE, Dynasty 12, Egyptian alabaster (calcite), height 5 1/2 inches (11.4 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Egypt, Western Thebes, Canopic Jar with a Lid in the Shape of a Royal Woman's Head, c. 1349-36 BCE or shortly after, Dynasty 18, late reign of Akhenaten, New Kingdom, alabaster with glass and stone inlays, height 20 1/2 inches (52.1 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. The carving is thought to be a specific member of the Egyptian royal family. The massive wig of layered curls is a headdress favored by Akhenaten's queen, Nefertiti, their six daughters, and a minor queen, Kiya. The jar was found in Thebes in a tomb in the Valley of the Kings that has aroused a great controversy concerning the events surrounding Akhenaten's death and succession.
Assyria (Nimrud), A Winged Genius, 883-859 BCE, alabaster, Worcester Art Museum, MA. See Mesopotamian art.
Henry Moore, OM, CH (English, 1898-1986), Four-Piece Composition: Reclining Figure, 1934, Cumberland alabaster (from Cumbria, England), 17.5 x 45.7 x 20.3 cm, Tate Gallery, London. See English art.
Dame Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903-1975), Mother and Child, 1934, Cumberland alabaster, 22.0 x 45.5 x 18.9 cm, Tate Gallery, London.
Also see Egyptian art and Mohs Scale of Hardness.