Kallos Gallery

An Egyptian limestone bust of Bes

An Egyptian limestone bust of Bes

PTOLEMAIC, CIRCA 3RD – 2ND CENTURY BC

Height: 20.3 cm

A limestone bust carved in high relief depicting the dwarf god Bes. His face features imposing eyebrows with finely incised details used for the mane. His beard consists of multiple curling locks. He is clad in a lion pelt carved in light relief, which falls around his shoulders. The small head of the feline appears on his torso, its front paws on his shoulders. There is a significant amount of red pigment remaining on the torso, and smaller traces of paint surviving on the eyes and mouth.

The Egyptian dwarf-like deity Bes was an apotropaic god and the protector of the household, children, and childbirth. He is therefore often found in domestic locations, such as the bedroom where his image was placed on beds and headrests. His most important role was as the protector of pregnant women. Images of Bes were placed in the birthing chamber, as it was believed that he would ward off evil spirits by singing, dancing, shouting and shaking his rattle.

It is believed that Bes was present in Egypt from the Old Kingdom, however it was during the Ptolemaic period that worship of the god reached its height.

There is a similar full statue of Bes in The Louvre, Paris, inv no. N 437. For further discussion on the image of Bes see, J.F. Romano, The Bes-Image in Pharaonic Egypt, New York, 1989.

Iris Love Collection, New York, acquired before 1968

On loan to Brooklyn Museum, 1968-2002, acc. no. L68.11.38

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