Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Ball-Playing Ceremony: the king before a goddess, possibly Hathor

Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
Dynasty 30 or later
380–246 B.C.
From Egypt
H. 85 × w. 71 × d. 7.2 cm (33 7/16 × 27 15/16 × 2 13/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1947
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 133
This quartzite relief appears to depict the ritual called "Striking the Ball". A king wearing the royal nemes head-cloth with uraeus and the traditional bull’s tail stands on the right. Between him and a goddess opposite is the god hieroglyph and, lower down, a round ball. The goddess wears a uraeus on her forehead and holds an ankh and a was scepter. The latter is by this time usually held only by gods, although precursors of this particular scene show the goddess with a was, and certain important goddesses may hold was scepters. Remnants of her epithets are preserved.
The ball represents the evil eye of the serpent Apopy who wants to stop the sun bark in its travels, which would be a cosmic disaster. Although this scene is somewhat incomplete, or possibly under revision, the king usually holds a stick in one hand against a ball held in the other, on the verge of batting the ball / eye far away. The goddess, generally Hathor, offers her divine support.
The soft form of the raised relief and the goddess’s jutting breast are indications the relief dates to the Ptolemaic Period. Magnificent hard stone temples are a striking feature of Dynasty 30 and the early Ptolemaic Period, and belong particularly to the Delta region.
Purchased in 1947 from Charles L. Morley, New York.

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