Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Cat with kittens on damaged box for animal mummy

Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
664–30 B.C.
From Egypt
Cupreous metal
H. 11 cm (4 5/16 in.); W. 9.4 cm (3 11/16 in.); L. 13.8 cm (5 7/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, 1929
Accession Number:
29.5a, b
Not on view
Bastet was a powerful goddess of Lower Egypt, one who was protective and could bring about great prosperity. In zoomorphic form, she was represented as a cat and cats were considered sacred to her. Here Bastet reclines, watching over her kittens. Several of the kittens are prone, in the act of nursing, but one sits upright, looking at its mother, giving this scene an endearing and engaging quality. The kittens attest to Bastet’s fecundity, while the act of nursing emphasizes her motherly and protective characteristics, which extend to and benefit not only her direct offspring but also the people of Egypt.

Bastet and her kittens lay on the fragmented remains of a box, which would have held a small mummy inside. Such mummy boxes were deposited in catacombs together with other offerings, such as linen-wrapped cat mummies, as at the extensive catacombs at Bubastis and Saqqara.
Donated to the Museum by Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr., 1929.

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