Egypt, Ptolemaic Period, ca. 305 to 30 BCE. Carved from a single piece of limestone, this impressive plaque depicts a crested bird, likely a heron or egret, carved in negative relief. Herons have resided in the Nile Delta as well as along the Red Sea year round. These magnificent birds, with their fanciful crests, were clearly beloved by the ancient Egyptians, as images of the birds were quite prevalent. See a drawing of an egret on a funerary papyrus found by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's excavators in Thebes in 1929 (object number 30.3.32). According to Met scholar Dorothea Arnold, "The ancient Egyptians believed that their king ascended to heaven in the form of the crested bird, and artists also often depicted the legendary phoenix as a heron. In every- day life these avian experts in fishing were used by fowlers as decoys to lure other birds into the nets." ("An Egyptian Bestiary" - Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin Spring 1995, p. 31) Size: 1.75" L x 7.25" W x 5.25" H (4.4 cm x 18.4 cm x 13.3 cm)
Please note that an old collection label attached to the underside of this piece reads in part, "Limestone relief plaque depicting an Ibis, the bird that the Egyptians associated with the god Thoth who was the scribe of the gods and the moon deity, patron of writing, mathematics, and language …" However, the bird rendered on this plaque differs in appearance from an ibis in that the beak is not hooked and the bird possesses an ornamental crest akin to a heron or egret.
Provenance: private J.H. collection, Beaverton, Oregon, USA, acquired in the 1990s; ex-Tom Cederlind collection, Portland, Oregon, USA
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