Egypt, Roman period, ca. 1st century BCE to 2nd century CE. A sizeable terracotta mold of Bes, the dwarf god who watched over and protected the members of a household - particularly the women and children - with the magical sign "sa." The mold has a flat base, rounded sides, and a rounded triangular appearance. The interior contains a large, deep-sunken relief face of the diminutive deity in a classic characterization, with perky ears, almond-shaped eyes, a broad nose, puffy cheeks, and an outstretched tongue. Artisans would fill molds like this example with soft marl clay, a material that was easier to bake at higher temperatures. The terracotta housing for the molded face was able to withstand far-greater temperatures, thus allowing for repeated use in creating multiple copies. An exceedingly rare example from the later epochs of ancient Egypt! Size: 6.625" W x 8.125" H (16.8 cm x 20.6 cm).
Bes, the bandy-legged leonine dwarf god, was an apotropaic deity, the protector of the home, children, and women in pregnancy and childbirth. In his role as protector of the home he was thought to dispel bad dreams, and by increasing virility in men and fertility in women, he was seen as a symbol of fecundity. When depicted in full form, he is generally depicted nude, wearing a lion's mane, a plumed headdress, and a tail. He is also seen dancing, brandishing a sword, or frightening off evil spirits by playing music. Bes continued to be a popularly depicted protective deity well into the Graeco-Roman Period.
Provenance: private Houston, Texas, USA collection; ex-Bonhams London Antiquities Auction, May 8, 2013, lot 136; ex-Joseph Klein collection, formed in New York, New York, USA between 1941 and 1980, thence by descent
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Surface wear commensurate with age and use, minor nicks to interior details and around peripheries, with some discoloration within mold cavity, otherwise intact and excellent. Remains of old pottery material within mold cavity, and nice earthen deposits throughout.