Ancient Egypt, Third Intermediate Period, 21st to 25th Dynasty, ca. 1069 to 664 BCE. A stunning faience ring of delicate form comprised of a mold-made aegis attached to a hand-formed annular shank. The front of the aegis features a bust of the lioness-headed deity Sekhmet, goddess of healing, military strategy, and war, who presents with a regal presence above a triangular lotus flower. Her head protrudes forth with slit-form eyes, puffy jowls beneath a petite nose, and a semicircular mane, and above her head is a sun disk fronted with a pair of soft, perky ears. Beneath her mane are the lappets of her royal headdress, and beneath the entire bust is a wesekh broad collar intended to emulate the front of a shield. Sekhmet's effigy is attached to one area of a wide ring bearing 5 incised concentric bands across the exterior, and the entire accessory is embellished with thick layers of brilliant blue glaze. Size (ring): 1.25" L x 0.6" W x 1.4" H (3.2 cm x 1.5 cm x 3.6 cm); (aegis): 0.6" W x 0.875" H (1.5 cm x 2.2 cm); (shank): 0.375" W (1 cm); US ring size 11.5
Sekhmet (also Sakhmet), among the oldest deities in the Egyptian pantheon, is typically depicted as a lioness-headed woman and sometimes wearing a sun disc on her head. When shown sitting, she usually holds an ankh of life; when standing, she wields a sceptre formed from papyrus as we see in this example, the symbol of Lower Egypt, the area with which she is most often associated. Her name comes from the Egyptian word "Sekhem" which translates to "power" or "might" - indeed Sekhmet is sometimes translated as "Powerful One" or "She who is Powerful." Sekhmet is also mentioned in several spells of The Book of the Dead, discussed as both a creative and a destructive force, but above all, the guardian of Ma'at (balance or justice) who defies evil.
According to author Manfred Lurker, "The imprecise term 'aegis' refers to a collar-like necklace which was regarded as a symbol of protection. In the Book of the Dead there is a spell for the 'collar of gold which is placed around the neck of the transfigured spirit on the day of burial'. These collars are often decorated with the head of a falcon or a uraeus. The placing in position of the collar is a symbolic expression for being encompassed by the arms of the god . . . Jewellery collars with the head of a god or goddess are also called an aegis. On the lids of mummy cases and stone sarcophagi instead of a collar there can appear a representation of a vulture with outstretched wings which has the same meaning; the sarcophagus of Tuthmosis I is an example." (Lurker, Manfred. "The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Egypt: An Illustrated Dictionary." Thames & Hudson, London, 1986, p. 24)
Cf. a glazed faience example from the Late Period at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 10.130.2055
Another example with a larger lotus flower hammered for $7,500 at Christie's, New York "Ancient Jewelry" auction (sale 3498, December 11, 2014, lot 234)
This piece has been searched against the Art Loss Register database and has been cleared. The Art Loss Register maintains the world's largest database of stolen art, collectibles, and antiques.
Provenance: private Toronto, Ontario, Canada collection; ex-private Virginia, USA collection, acquired from Royal Athena Gallery, New York City, New York, USA in September 2014; ex-Jerome Eisenberg private collection, New York City, New York, USA
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Shank is stable but not recommended for wearing due to age and fragility of faience. A couple of stable hairline fissures beneath obverse of sun disk as well as between shank and verso of aegis commensurate with age and not any repair. Minor encrustations and pitting to shank and aegis, with softening to some finer details on aegis, and very light fading to glaze pigment in scattered areas, otherwise intact and excellent. Fantastic preservation to overall form and glaze pigment.