Egypt, Late Period (664 – 332 BCE)

REF No.10108 bronze figurine
(only cat) : H 10 x W 3.5 x D 5 cm
(base) : H 4 x W 7 x D 7 cm

This small green and red covered bronze figurine dating from the Late Period (664 – 332 BCE) represents the Egyptian goddess Bast or Bastet as a sitting cat. On the left ear one can notice a small hole which would most likely hold an earring, now a days lost to us. She sits atop a small green bronze base in a square format.

There were restorations on the right ear, as well as on the right paw.

The wild cat was domesticated at around 2000 BCE, but did not become a central figure in the funeral decorations up until 500 years later during the New Kingdom. The cat was venerated as a form of the goddess as she represented protection, and was believed to accompany its master in the Other World in the form of a statue.

Bast or Bastet was an Egyptian goddess often portrayed as a woman having the head either of a lioness surmounted by a snake or that of a cat. She is often holding a sistrum in her right hand and an aegis surmounted with the head of a cat in her left. She was the goddess par excellence in the eastern part of the Delta, having a specific adoration at Bubastis, the capital of Am-khent, which is mentioned by famous authors such as Pliny and Herodote, as well as in the Bible under the name of Pibeseth. In the beginning of her worship, she was associated with the cat, and it is only at a later period that she is associated with the lioness. When she is associated with the lioness, she is associated with the heat and the sun. On the contrary, when she is associated with the cat, she is associated with the moon and thus the night, for her son, Khensu, is the moon god. Alongside her son, she is also associated with fertility and aids pregnant women.

Her name is often associated with the Egyptian word bes, which means fire, and which could possibly explain as to why she was regarded as a personification of the power of the sun. She did not symbolize the destructive fire as is the case of Sekhet, but a milder heat that encourages the growth of crops and vegetation. She was thus celebrated during the Egyptian springtime, at around April and May.
Provenance: Private French Collection acquired in a Christie's London sale in 7/11/2011 under the lot 409 Ancient Rattigan collection, acquired by Bazil Jonsen in 1948 Literature: WALLIS BUDGE E.A., « The Gods of the Egyptians, Volume I & II », United States, 1969

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