Art/ Collection/ Art Object


Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
664–30 B.C.
From Egypt
Cupreous metal
H. 11.2 cm (4 7/16 in.); W. 3.5 cm (1 3/8 in.); D. 3.7 cm (1 7/16 in.) H. (with tang): 12.4 cm (4 7/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1957
Accession Number:
Not on view
Bastet, here shown as a cat-headed goddess, was a powerful protective figure who also was known for her fertility. She could be represented with a lion head as well, but as a cat-headed goddess her peaceful traits were emphasized. Here the head and ears are large in proportion to the thin and petite body, putting further emphasis on her hybrid aspect. Bastet’s personal adornments and garments are elaborate on statuettes, often more so than other goddesses, and she usually carries numerous attributes. This figure holds a protective lion-headed aegis against her chest and probably once held a sistrum in her other hand. Her dress has a complex pattern with alternating blank and hatched vertical stripes and fringe along the bottom edge. Bastet does not always wear a decorated dress, but it is much more common for her than for other goddesses. The patterning highlights its intricacy and quality; also, as some have suggested, the vertical banding may recall the striped fur of a cat.

Bastet’s main cult center was at Bubastis in the Delta, where thousands of cat mummies and a large number of cat statuettes were discovered. Her cult extended far beyond Bubastis, however, and statuettes of this goddess, as a cat or cat-headed, were among some of the most popular dedications of the Late and Ptolemaic Periods.
Purchased by the Museum from Mrs. Marie B. Williams, Virginia, 1957.

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