An Egyptian Terracotta Bes-Head Flask, Greco-Roman Period, ca. 1st century BCE/CE
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Anthropomorphized into the head of the dwarfish trickster god Bes, the body mold-made from Nile silt clay, depicting the head of the grimacing god, his face with bulging almond-shaped eyes with large articulated pupils, exaggerated eyelashes, and a furrowed brow, with a bulbous pug-nose and fleshy cheeks, his open mouth revealing his top row of teeth and a wide lolling tongue, framed by his long stylized beard, with protruding ears emerging from his short stippled hair, a small strap handle runs from the rim to shoulder on the left.
Bes may not have belonged among the great gods in the temples, but his ferocious, demonic appearance was effective in driving out evil spirits, and in the temples he served as a support for the great gods. He was part of daily life and in the home, used as a decoration on beds, headrests, jars, lamps, and cosmetic containers, in addition to figures and small amulets. Bes-like figures first appear at the end of the Old Kingdom and in the Middle Kingdom. The more traditional form of Bes is seen from the New Kingdom to the Roman Period. At the tail end of ancient Egyptian culture, he is found all over the Mediterranean region from Ibiza in the west, down to Nubia, in today’s Sudan, and as far east as Persia. Representations of Bes were made of all kinds of materials – from wood, stone, terracotta, bone, and bronze to semi-precious stones and precious metals. For amulets and figurines, Egyptian faience was often used.
Bes is easily recognizable. He has short, stumpy legs, his tongue pokes out of his mouth, his beard resembles a lion’s mane and he has a feather ornament on his head. Bes was present in people’s lives at all levels of Ancient Egyptian society, in the homes of both pharaohs and slaves. He provided protection against everything, including diseases, pregnancy complications and childbirth, preventing snake bites, and the power to scare away all enemies. Therefore he was present everywhere in the homes of the Ancient Egyptians – on beds and headrests, on cosmetic containers and mirrors, and on so-called ‘Bes jars’ and magic wands.
For related examples, see Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam #APM.14415, Petrie Museum online UC48107, Dunand’s Louvre #393-396, Bettina Kreuzer #120 and #144.
Condition: Intact and in very good condition overall. A very good example.
Provenance: The Estate of Maria Mooers, Boerne, Texas, acquired in the 1960s.
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