Egypt, Ptolemaic period, ca. 332 to 30 BCE. A charming cast-bronze figurine of a shrew atop an integral lid meant for a votive sarcophagus. The petite mammal stands atop four attenuated legs and has a bulky body, a protruding tail base, and a slightly tapered neck. Circular eyes, a puffy mane, a tapered snout, and a pair of cupped ears comprise the countenance. The back of the neck is incised with a serrated register similar to the designs seen on pharaonic Wesekh pectoral collars and incised on the back are a pair of outstretched wings symbolic of the goddess Isis. Mottled layers of green and brown patina envelop the entire composition, and areas of azurite patina are visible on the head and neck. Size: 3.1" L x 0.8" W x 1.1" H (7.9 cm x 2 cm x 2.8 cm); 1.4" H (3.6 cm) on included custom stand.
According to scholar Dorothea Arnold, "'The Voracious' was the ancient Egyptians' name for the shrew, an epithet that aptly describes the feeding habits of this tiny animal. In ancient Egyptian popular mythology the shrew was closely associated with the ichneumon. The shrew represented the blind aspect of a solar deity whose complement, endowed with keen eyesight, was understood to be the ichneumon." (Arnold, Dorothea. "An Egyptian Bestiary." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Spring 1995, Vol. LII, no. 4, p. 39).
For a nearly identical example, please see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 04.2.465.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection, acquired in February 2019; ex-Artemis Gallery; ex-private New Jersey, USA collection
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Loss to end of tail as shown. Small area of restoration to one side of body, with resurfacing and overpainting along new material. Minor abrasions to plinth, body, head, and legs, with softening to some incised details, and light encrustations. Great brown and green patina throughout with areas of azurite patina around head and neck.