Vessel in the Shape of the God Bes

  • Egypt
  • 7th - 6th centuries B.C.
  • H-17 D-10.2 W-10.2
Catalogue Entry

This vessel is shaped like the god Bes. The large head, bearded face, ears protruding to the side, large, flat eyes and nose, tongue extending between thick lips. His breasts hang down, his large, swelling buttocks and stomach protrude as he sits on a flat dais. A leopard's skin hangs from his back, with the head and forelegs of the animal hanging beneath his chin. The top of the winged decoration on his head contains a rectangular shaped opening for the vessel. The god Bes protected against bad spirits and calamities, and is thought to have protected pregnant women and infants. Figures of this deity were extremely popular as family protective deities, in spite of his forbidding appearance. This vessel is thought to have held the black cosmetic powder used to outline the eyes. Possibly the rods used to apply the cosmetics would have been held in the deity's two rounded fists. The powerful modeling and the size of this figure make it an exceptional work. Judging from the small missing areas, the entire figure is thought to have been made of a blue material (the color formed by copper oxides) and not covered with a glaze, and hence it is thought to have been made from the material known as Egyptian Blue. This material has the same component ingredients as glass and faience and was molded and fired, but the firing temperature was lower than that of glass and thus the material did not completely fuse. This material was first made in the Old Kingdom period.