Ancient Egypt, Third Intermediate to Late Dynastic Period, ca. 1070 to 332 BCE. A wonderfully preserved sacred ibis, of the style found in the tombs of scribes, associated with the deity Djehuty or Thoth, the god of knowledge in the Egyptian pantheon. Here, the bird is depicted seated with a sinuous neck and long bill, the body sculpted in wood and covered in gesso that would at one time have been white but has gained a rich patina with time. The legs, head, and tail feathers are each cast separately in bronze with finely delineated details. The eyes likely once had an inlay. Take note of those webbed feet and intricate markings on tail feathers. It is mounted on a wooden platform that is also covered in gesso and may have once had painted motifs. A crouched bronze figure of a worshipper sits in front of the ibis. It is rare to find one of these figures still on its original platform with the worshipper figure, as most have been separated by time. Size: 8.25" W x 6.05" H (21 cm x 15.4 cm)
The ibis, an elegant, long-legged wading bird that lives along the shores of the Nile, was associated with the god Thoth. He was the god of wisdom and writing, and in worship to him many thousands of ibises were ritually sacrificed, embalmed, and mummified before being buried in underground galleries. Thousands of these burials have been excavated at Sakkara, near Memphis, Egypt's ancient capital. This piece, a smaller version of these ibis containers, was a votive item to be placed inside a tomb.
A very similar example missing its worshipper sold at Christie's New York on 4 June 2015 (lot 10) for $81,250.
This piece has been tested for the presence or absence of particular elements via XRF elemental analysis. A full XRF report identifying the quantity of each element present in the sample will accompany purchase. The report certifies that the element composition is consistent with antiquity and will be included with the purchase.
Provenance: ex-William Ashby collection
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Rich patina on surface, with the bronze components now a pale, mottled green. Gesso has some small areas of loss revealing the wooden surface below. Excellent preservation of form.