Ptah Statue

Period: Third Intermediate Period

Date: ca. 1070–712 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt

Medium: Bronze, gold leaf, glass

Dimensions: H. 29.5 cm (11 1/2 in)

Credit Line: Purchase, Gift in memory of Manuel Schnitzer, 2009

Accession Number: 2009.175


Ptah was a great creator god, but he also listened to the prayers of individuals, an aspect expressed in his epithet Nefer-Her (Benevolent of Face). This description is well suited to the serene, open features of this large, gilded bronze. The god's body is covered except for his hands, and his rounded arms and jutting elbows are emphasized by the tight garment. He wears a skullcap and a ridged beard. Tucked behind the beard are the tops of three overlaid staffs that end above his ankles: an animal-headed was (dominion) visible in side view, an ankh (life) with its loop and crossbar, and a djed (stability) with four horizontals. The deity would have been housed in a wooden shrine; when the doors were opened, he received offerings, incense, prayers, and songs. When the statuette's life as a temple image was over, it would have been deposited in a sacred cache.
The statuette is remarkable for its beauty, size, and state of preservation, as well as for the distinctive methods and quality of the casting. It belongs to the Third Intermediate Period, a time of political fragmentation when temples came to the fore, producing a crescendo of experimentation and expression in metalwork.