Apis figure inscribed for Padishernefer son of Khonsuirdis
Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
H. 6.2 cm (2 7/16 in.); W. 2.1 cm (13/16 in.); L. 6.7 cm (2 5/8 in.)
H. (with tang): 7.2 cm (2 13/16 in.)
Gift of Joseph W. Drexel, 1889
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 134
The worship of the Apis bull is attested as early as Dynasty I. A single living representative was stabled near the Ptah temple in Memphis. The bull selected for this important role had certain colorful markings, such as a white triangle on the forehead, and black patches resembling winged birds or scarabs on the body. The bull is often shown, as here, wearing a large sun disc, a banded collar, and a decorated rectangular cloth on its back. Similar markings are easily visible on Apis acc. no. 17.190.62. An inscription on the base provides the name of the donor and his parents.
The Apis bull participated in ceremonies of fertility and regeneration. When it died, it was embalmed and buried with all honors; at that time, a new bull bearing the requisite markings was selected. Beginning with the reign of Amenhotep III (1390–1352 B.C.) in Dynasty 18, the place of Apis burials gradually became a huge and growing underground system of chambers called the Serapeum in the Memphite necropolis, Saqqara. The bull was so revered that even the mothers of Apis bulls had their own cult and burial place.