Egypt, Late Dynastic, Dynasty XXX-XXXI, 4th century BCE. Hand-carved in the round and intricately painted with fins, scales, and facial features, a wooden fish that may have once sat upon a sarcophagus. The mouth and outline of the head are incised, and the eyes are carved in negative relief. The entire surface is covered in gesso - in a pleasing palette of red, black, and white. A wonderful piece, replete with rich symbolism (see below). The artists who created such funerary art and the bereaved family members who commissioned them believed in the power of the iconography to aid the deceased in the afterlife. Size: 8.375" L x 3.125" H (21.3 cm x 7.9 cm); 3.875" H (9.8 cm) on included custom stand.
This fish may represent a Nile perch. Interestingly, the Egyptians also mummified fish - wrapping them in bandages and binding them together with rope made of palm fibers. Scores of pilgrims would have travelled to sacred sites throughout Egypt in order to give votive offerings to the gods. Various locations in the Nile Valley and the Delta were associated with specific gods and their relevant animal cults. Nile perch were sacred to the goddess Neith - an early goddess worshipped as the first creator of the universe. According to legend, she declared, "I am the things that are, that will be, and that have been . . ."
Provenance: private Davis collection, Houston, Texas, USA; ex-private New York, New York, USA collection
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