EB1401

An Egyptian Bronze Figure of Bastet, 21st Dynasty ca. 1069-945 BC

the feline goddess shown standing, her left hand holding an aegis with sun-disc and uraeus against her chest, her  smiling feline face with typical erect ears, wearing a short-sleeved dress decorated with alternating dotted and hatched stripes, standing on a small rectangular plinth. 

Background: Bastet, also known as Bast, was a goddess in ancient Egyptian religion, worshipped as early as the Second Dynasty (2890 BC).  Originally she was viewed as the protector goddess of Lower Egypt. As protector, she was seen as defender of the pharaoh, and consequently of the later chief male deity, Ra, who was also a solar deity, gaining her the titles Lady of Flame and the Eye of Ra.

In the first millennium BC, when domesticated cats were popularly kept as pets, during the 18th dynasty Bastet began to be represented as a woman with the head of a cat, such as this example, and ultimately, by the 22nd dynasty emerged as the Egyptian cat-goddess. In the Middle Kingdom, the domestic cat appeared as Bast’s sacred animal and after the New Kingdom she was depicted as a woman with the head of a cat or a lioness, carrying a sacred rattle and a box or basket.

In describing the festival of Bastet, the Greek historian Herodotus (about 484-425 BC) equated the cat goddess with the Greek goddess Artemis. The festival procession was by boat, the occupants playing musical instruments, singing and clapping. The boats approached the shore when they passed towns, and the inhabitants would run or dance alongside the boats, calling to the procession. The festival itself took place in the temple of Bastet, and consisted of a large number of sacrifices and the consumption of copious amounts of wine by the huge crowds that attended.

Dimensions:Height:  11.4 cm (4.48 inches) excluding the tenon.

Condition: Lower right arm missing otherwise intact and in very good condition overall.

Provenance:  acquired from Susette Khayat, Ancient Arts Gallery, 5th Ave, New York City, in the 1950's and then by descent.

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