The Goddess Bastet
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
The complex nature of Egyptian deities is often indicated by their attributes. Osiris’s tightly wrapped mummy shroud and his crook and flail (symbolizing kingship) point to the legend of Osiris’s murder, mummification, and subsequent resurrection as the ruler of the underworld. The cobra held by his wife, Isis, represents the magic that revived her husband and guarded their son, Horus. As the rightful heir to Osiris’s throne and the embodiment of kingship, the falcon-god Horus wears the Double Crown.
Animals can also reveal divine qualities. The cow or cow-human forms of Hathor refer to her role as provider of milk to Horus and to young kings of Egypt. Bastet, another benevolent female deity, appears as a cat or cat-headed woman, carrying a basket and sistrum.
Certain deities, including Neith, Ptah, Nefertem, and Imhotep, were portrayed in human form. The ancient protectress Neith, associated with war and hunting, wears the flat-topped Red Crown of Lower Egypt. The Memphite creator-god Ptah holds a staff with hieroglyphs for life and permanence. Ptah’s son, Nefertem, a lotus on his head (symbolizing rebirth), defends Maat with his scimitar. Imhotep, the deified architect of Djoser’s pyramid, shares Ptah’s close-fitting cap, and the papyrus on his lap emphasizes wisdom and creativity.
3 5/16 x 1 1/8 x 3/4 in. (8.4 x 2.9 x 1.9 cm)
mount (display dimensions): 5 x 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. (12.7 x 3.8 x 3.8 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Bronze figure of a standing cat dress in a long skirt. In her right hand she holds, resting on her shoulder, a sistrum. In her left hand she holds a lioness-headed aegis to her chest. A basket is represented as suspended in the crook of her right arm.
Condition: Solid cast. Surface has some pitting but is basically sound. Green-black patina.
The Goddess Bastet, 305-30 B.C.E. Bronze, 3 5/16 x 1 1/8 x 3/4 in. (8.4 x 2.9 x 1.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.376E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 37.376E_NegA_SL4.jpg)
threequarter, unedited master file, 37.376E_NegA_SL4.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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