An Exhibited Egyptian Terracotta Bes Pot, Late Period, 26th Dynasty, ca. 664 - 525 BCE
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This large and rare, orange-colored Nile clay vessel shows the Protector god's face molded to the front. He is depicted with round eyes, snub nose, small ears, incised downturned brows, and a mustache. The vessel is sitting on a small disc base, with a globular body, a long neck emulating Bes's crown, an everted rim with a circular mouth, and an applied strap handle at the back.
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.
Exhibited: Albany Museum of Art, between 2010 - 2023Medium: Nile clay
Dimensions: Height: 9 1/4 inches (23.5 cm)
Condition: Overall intact and in excellent condition, the surface with scattered mineral deposits.
Provenance: Private Massachusetts collection, acquired from Ancient World Arts, Connecticut in 1998.