**Originally Listed At $1500**
Egypt, Late Dynastic Period, 26th Dynasty, ca. 664 to 525 BCE. A hand-carved wooden sarcophagus, composed of two vertically-split halves, depicting a petite cat seated upon its hind legs atop an integral rectangular plinth. The cat has nicely defined features such as protruding front legs, a rounded back crest, and remains of original white gesso decorations, and the interior of the sarcophagus can be seen when looking through the verso. The narrow face bears a pair of recessed eyes, a broad nose above a tapered chin, and a pair of perky ears. A wonderful example of one of Egypt's most symbolically significant animals. Size: 4.9" L x 2.875" W x 7.625" H (12.4 cm x 7.3 cm x 19.4 cm); 9.625" H (24.4 cm) on included custom stand.
Thousands of mummified cats and kittens were given as offerings at temples in honor of Bastet, the cat god associated with domesticity, fertility, childbirth, and, above all, cats. Beyond the goddess, cats were honored and protected in Egyptian society. Famously, Herodotus wrote that men would protect cats from fire, and that when a cat died, a household would go into mourning as if a human member of the family had died, shaving their eyebrows to signify their loss. It was immediately before this Late Dynastic Period that worship of Bastet became immensely popular, and her chief center of worship, Bubastis, became a great city, and Herodotus, visiting the city in 450 BCE, described a great festival dedicated to her.
Provenance: private J.H. collection, Beaverton, Oregon, USA; ex-Galerie Eberwein, Germany; ex-private German collection, bought in Egypt by the parents of the previous owner between 1950 and 1960, purportedly found in Thebes at the Valley of the Kings
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Losses to tail and back end, areas of front legs, integral plinth, and ears as shown. Chipping to original gesso decorations, with abrasions and nicks to head, body, legs, and plinth, and softening to some finer details commensurate with age. Nice traces of original gesso throughout.