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Romano-Egyptian Alexandrian Terracotta Effigy of Bes

Egypt, probably Alexandria, Romano-Egyptian Period, ca. 1st century BCE to 1st century CE. A hollow, mold-made terracotta effigy figure depicting the dwarf deity Bes. The figure stands atop attenuated legs with a rotund abdomen flanked by hanging arms and hands held to his thighs, and broad shoulders frame his overall presentation. His visage is shown in great detail with petite eyes under multi-layered brows, puffy cheeks, a wide nose, an elaborate bead which is often interpreted as a lion's mane, and a gaping mouth with a hanging tongue. Thick traces of white-pink pigment envelop most of the obverse side. The deity Bes watched over the members of a household, particularly the women and children, and protected them with the magical sign "sa." Size: 3.75" W x 6" H (9.5 cm x 15.2 cm).

Alexandria was an important port town in Roman-controlled Egypt, and through it Roman culture and ideas came into the ancient kingdom. Part of this ideological movement included items, like this figure, produced by the healthy ceramic industry that sprang up in the city which produced domestic and funerary ware, votive statues, toys, and other items. Egypt of course had its own tradition of pottery items prior to the arrival of the Greco-Romans, but the Romans brought new forms of material culture that seem to have become quickly fashionable.

Condition: Losses to areas of top of head, legs, and verso, with small nicks to most areas, fading to some finer details, as well as fading and chipping to applied pigmentation. Nice traces of pigmentation across obverse side, and light earthen deposits throughout. Old inventory number written in black ink on bottom of verso.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Adeon Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, USA

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