Ancient Egypt, Late Dynastic to Ptolemaic Periods, ca. 712 to 30 BCE. A powerful 86% silver votive statuette that is a masterpiece of intricacy, depicting the goddess Sekhmet. She has the head of a lion and the body of a human wearing a long, close fitting robe. Her mane hangs straight down her back like a classic Egyptian wig, blurring the line between animal and goddess. She holds a long stemmed lotus bud in her right hand, symbolic of well being in the afterlife. Originally, this ancient statuette would have been attached to a small base, probably inserted into a shrine, as indicated by the pin underneath her feet. Perhaps it was the centerpiece of a shrine inside the house of a high-ranking official; given the inherent value of silver to the ancient Egyptians, the symbolic significance of Sekhmet, and the mastery of the form, this would have belonged to an elite member of ancient Egyptian society. Size: 1.25" L x 0.7" W x 2.1" H (3.2 cm x 1.8 cm x 5.3 cm); 2.6" H (6.6 cm) on included custom stand; silver is 86% pure; total weight: 36.1 grams
Sekhmet's name means "the powerful one" and she was seen as a strong protector of the pharaohs in both life and death who was also a warrior goddess who would lead them in warfare. Thutmose III, the pharaoh known as the Napoleon of Egypt, referred to her as "Mut" meaning both "mother" and "death". The lioness, her embodied form, was the fiercest hunter known to the Egyptians. She had a violent temper, as befitting a goddess linked to the sun in a desert civilization, and is often depicted dressed in red, the color of blood. In the legend of Ra and Hathor, furious Sekhmet would have destroyed humanity had Ra not gotten her drunk.
Temple inscriptions indicate that Egyptians valued silver more highly than gold, in part because it was so scarce. Indeed, it is not fully understood where Egyptians imported silver from, though it is theorized to be the Eastern Mediterranean. They associated silver with the moon, the purity required for rituals, and the bones of the gods (who had golden flesh). It seems to have been reserved especially for deities related to the sun, perhaps because of the sun/moon dichotomy.
Provenance: private Los Angeles, California, USA collection; ex-Safani Gallery, New York, USA, acquired in 2003
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