Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Cat head

Period:
Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
Date:
664–30 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt
Medium:
Cupreous metal
Dimensions:
H. 4.2 cm (1 5/8 in.); W. 3.5 cm (1 3/8 in.); D. 3.7 cm (1 7/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Darius Ogden Mills, 1904
Accession Number:
04.2.596
Not on view
The cat was sacred to the goddess Bastet, and was offered in sanctuaries and deposited in animal necropoleis throughout Egypt. This cat has large deep-cut eyes for the addition of inlay and incised markings on the neck and back for the fur. The head is hollow and the walls of the casting are even throughout, which attest to the artist’s skillful casting abilities.

The function of these large cat heads is ambiguous. They have been found in offering contexts, and it is commonly assumed that they formed part of a composite statuette; the full statuette, when intact, probably would have had a hollow wooden body and held a cat mummy inside, much as similar large hollow copper alloy statuettes did. However, these figures are almost never found with the composite bodies, even at sites where wood is relatively well preserved. It is possible that in some cases these cat heads were dedicated on their own, or were purposefully disassembled from their bodies, which were then discarded or used in another way.
Collection of Judge Elbert E. Farman, formed when he was U.S. consul general in Egypt 1876–84. Donated to the museum by Darius Ogden Mills, New York, in 1904.

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