A wonderfully detailed bronze statuette showing the god Bes. He is depicted in a way typical for the god, as a bandy legged, deformed and nude dwarf with an ugly human face and wide eyes, round, lionine ears and animal hair or manes. In addition he has a long animal tail. He is wearing a crown, consisting of a cavetto cornice and five feathers or plumes, the ribs and veining of which are indicated. Although depictions of the god are much older, the headdress was first added as an element of the iconography of Bes in the 18th dynasty (Romano, p. 78-79 and 101).
Bes is here shown playing the kithara, a stringed instrument that the god used to ward off evil. His right hand is clenched with just the index finger outstretched, to strum the instrument in his left hand.
The god was associated with several musical instruments since the New Kingdom, playing the (double) flute (Romano p. 68) or a drum or tambourine (ibidem, p. 70-71; see also p. 109-110, and for the catalogue numbers see index on p. 117; compare Roeder, p. 99, § 141).
In the Third Intermediate Period he was also depicted playing a stringed instrument, either a lyre or a long-necked lute (Romano, p. 147, with reference to Hornemann, no. 1092). See also Roeder, p. 99, § 140; p. 445, § 609d with fig. 662, pl. 88a; p. 505-506, §679a with fig. 779). For Bes playing a lyre in the presence of Bastet and playing a long-handled lute see Langton, p. 56, nos. 7-8 and pl. IV, 1. Bes is depicted playing a harp-like instrument on one of the pillars in the temple of Hathor at Philae. For a terracotta figurine of the god playing a lute see Wilfong, p. 3.
Bodil Hornemann, Types of Ancient Egyptian Statuary IV (Copenhagen, Munksgaard, 1966);
N. Langton, “Further Notes on Some Egyptian Figures of Cats”, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 24 (1938), p. 54-58, pl. IV no. 1;
Günther Roeder, Ägyptische Bronzefiguren (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Mitteilungen aus der ägyptischen Sammlung, Band VI) (Berlin, 1956);
James F. Romano, The Bes-Image in Pharaonic Egypt (New York, 1989);
Terry Wilfong, “Music in Roman Egypt”, Kelsey Museum Newsletter Fall 1998 (Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1998).
Early Roman Period, circa first – second century C.E.
Height 6 cm.
Harlan J. Berk, The Glories of Ancient Egypt (Chicago, 2017), no. 83.
Private Arizona collection, acquired in the 1960s; thereafter Hixenbaugh Ancient Art, New York; therafter collection of Elizabeth Nutt, New Hampshire, acquired in 2006; thereafter Harlan J. Berk, Chicago.
Repair to part of the kithara, else in perfect condition with some minor encrustation.