Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Nefertum

Period:
Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
Date:
664–30 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt
Medium:
Cupreous metal
Dimensions:
H. 9.7 cm (3 13/16 in.); W. 2 cm (13/16 in.); D. 3.5 cm (1 3/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Joseph W. Drexel, 1889
Accession Number:
89.2.519
Not on view
The god Nefertum was born out of a lotus flower on the mound of creation; thus he was closely connected with the sun, creation, and with the lotus, but also, more broadly, sweet-smelling, pleasant things. Nefertum was the son of Ptah and of the lion-goddess Sakhmet, and is sometimes envisioned as the son of Bastet or certain other great female lion goddesses. He had a martial aspect, but also a protective one, mirroring some of the contrasting but complementary qualities of Sakhmet and Bastet. In later periods, his protective aspect expanded and he was a symbol of good fortune, which perhaps in part explains his prominent role as a subject for statuettes and amulets.
In copper alloy statuettes, he is shown, almost without exception, as a beautiful man who wears a crown comprised of a lotus blossom framed by menat symbols and topped with two tall feathers; the menats derive from his association with feline goddesses. Behind the crown, Nefertum has a triple-strap suspension loop at the base of the crown, a common feature on Nefertum statuettes whether large or small. Some comparable statuettes hold their hands at the side, as here, while others hold a sickle-shaped object, probably an ostrich feather fan.
Donated by Joseph W. Drexel, Philadelphia, 1889.

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