Figure of the goddess Bastet

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A slim and elegant bronze votive sculpture made with the lost-wax technique. The figure represents the goddess Bastet in her animal form, as a domestic cat. The feline is resting on her haunches, her tail circling the right back leg and with the front legs standing straight upright. The head is held erect with the gaze to the front and the ears pricked up. There are some incisions in groups of three, perhaps indication possible ornaments in the form of bracelets. The pose is one of expectation and vigilance of what is happening in the vicinity. This is a classical representation in Egyptian art.

The main characteristic of this sculpture is the delicacy of the facial features, as well as that of the decoration. There is a small circular hole in each ear which was for earrings. These would normally be made of gold but are now missing. There is a square plate piece over the chest which is held in place around the neck by a collar of three strings of beads. This plate has a representation of the eye of Horus, the Udyat. This is a magic amulet associated with the god Horus, who was extremely popular. It was considered to be one of the most powerful amulets, with apotropaic powers, that is, magic powers intended to turn away harm or evil influences with curing powers, able to aid vision, cure illnesses of the eye, and avert the evil eye. It also protected the dead. As a talisman it symbolised health, prosperity, the imperishable nature of the body and its ability to be reborn.

The animal would normally be on a flat rectangular base of the same material, although the base could also have been made from wood. Two sharply pointed bronze pegs can be seen under the figure used to insert and hold the feline in place on a base.

Baset or Bast was the goddess protector of the home and of the joy of living. She was considered the deity of harmony and happiness. She was equivalent to the Greek goddess Artemis and was represented as a domestic cat or as a woman with the head of a cat. She carried a sistrum to indicate her love of music.

She was considered to be the personification of the warming rays of the sun, as well as the incarnation of the peaceful aspects of gods such as Sekhmet, who represented the evil qualities of the sun. As the eye of Atum (creator and solar god) she was associated with the moon and protected births and pregnant women. At the same time, from the time of the Late Period she was considered mother of the pharaoh, whom she helped and protected so that he could reach the heavens. Her cult had one of its important centres in the city Bubastis, where hundreds of mummified cats have been found.

The technique of lost wax casting is a sculptural procedure using a mould made from a prototype of the piece to be worked, and this prototype is usually made from beeswax. This is covered with a thick layer of soft material, usually clay, which then solidifies. Once this has hardened it is put in a kiln where the wax inside melts and leaks out through expressly made holes in the clay. In its place molten metal is injected and this takes on the exact form of the mould. To release the final piece the mould must be removed.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

- BLEIBERG, E. Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt. Brooklyn Museum. 2013.
- HOULIHAN, P. The Animal World of the Pharaohs. Thames and Hudson. London. 1996.
- MALEK, J. The Cat in Ancient Egypt. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1997.

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