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Hoofd van de god Bes

Hoofd van de god Bes, Inv.-Nr. 020.004.0007
© Stiftung DKM | Photo: SDKM

Ptolemaic Period, late 4th or early 3rd century BCE
Glassy faience
5.1 x 4.0 x 2.5 cm HWD

The head comes from a larger figure depicting the popular protector deity Bes, a chimera made up of a lion and a dwarf. It is carved out of “glassy faience”, a rare glass-like variation of Egyptian faience whose core usually appears porous. But the centre of the present head is as hard and compact as glass and its surface also has a glassy make-up. The surface is light blue and certain details are executed in dark violet. Stylistically, the head can be dated to the early Ptolemaic period, most probably to the 3rd century BCE.

The subtlety and expressiveness of the deity’s grotesque face are unsurpassed. As usual, he sticks his tongue out at his opponent, staring at him gimlet-eyed and with raised eyebrows. His ragged beard with finely turned curls at the end makes an ornamental impression. The feather crown once worn by the figure is now missing. It was worked separately and inserted in the kalathos. The kalathos itself is decorated with two bands of friezes, one on top of the other, depicting uraeus serpents. The rounded stuck-out ears in which the fur of the carnivore can be recognised are indicative of the lion aspect of Bes. The bow-legged dwarf deity was also covered in a lion or leopard skin on which a leopard head was attached at chest level.

Bes was considered a protector of childbirth and provider of vital energy since the Middle Kingdom. At that time, he was still known as Aha “the fighter”. Bes first received his now familiar name during the New Kingdom.

André Wiese

F.D. Friedman, Gifts of the Nile. Ancient Egyptian Faience, London 1998, 108f. nos. 73 –75. R. Busz – P. Gercke (eds). Türkis und Azur. Quarzkeramik im Orient und Okzident, Staatliche Museen Kassel 1999, 286, no. 27. A. Caubet – G. Pierrat-Bonnfoi (eds.), Fayence de l’Antiquité de l’Egypte à l’Iran, Paris 2005, 159, ill. 425. Stiftung DKM, Ägypten _ Egypt, 2011, Cat. No. 55.