Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Aegis of a female goddess

Period:
Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
Date:
664–30 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt
Medium:
Cupreous metal
Dimensions:
H. 4.8 cm (1 7/8 in.); W. 5 cm (1 15/16 in.); D. 1.3 cm (1/2 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Joseph W. Drexel, 1889
Accession Number:
89.2.596
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 134
The aegis is an object that comprises the bust of a deity with a broad collar below it. Broad collars are generally accompanied by a menat, a counterpoise that hangs at the back of the neck, balancing the weight of the heavy, elaborate collar on the chest. Although this piece only shows the deity’s head and broad collar, it represents the aegis-menat combination, which was not only a personal adornment but also played an important role in cult. It was a protective symbol and was used in rituals and festivals; the head allowed the deity to inhabit the ritual instrument and thus take part in the ceremonies.
In this case, a goddess is represented, whose crown was separately crafted and attached, but is now lost. These types of ritual objects are most closely associated with goddesses, especially Bastet, but also Sakhmet and Isis. This aegis has a small suspension loop at the back, possibly for the attachment of a menat or for use as an amulet. It also could have been held by a goddess, such as Bastet, who is frequently shown in copper alloy carrying aegises with anthropomorphic female or lion heads.
Donated by Joseph W. Drexel, Philadelphia, 1889.

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