Woman Holding a Leopard on Her Back

  • Egypt
  • ca. 12th century B.C.
Catalogue Entry

A woman wearing a wig and wrapped in a long garment stands with a leopard on her back. She holds the left foreleg of the leopard in her left hand, and her right hand grasps its right hind leg, with the right foreleg clasped against her right side. The left hind leg and tail of the leopard hang down to touch the ground. The leopard's head faces to the right and is attached to the back of the woman's head. The woman leans somewhat forward to support the weight of the leopard and balances herself by extending her left leg forward. While parts of the image have flaked away, the figure is coated in turquoise and pale yellow glazes, with the woman's wig, eyes, clothing motifs, and the leopard's spots shown in dark brown. The faces of both woman and leopard are shown in realistic form and look as if they are just starting to move. The goddess of writing Seshat is shown wearing a leopard fur garment, but here the animal is shown in full three-dimensional form and is not simply an animal skin. The brown motif depicted on the woman's long garment, however, may be related to the leopard's spots. Probably the unusual motif of carrying a leopard on the back had some specific incantation or magical meaning. While a small object, the motifs depicted and the formation of the figures make it an extremely fascinating work.