Egyptian Limestone Statuette of a Seated Baboon

Egyptian, Egyptian, Egyptian · New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty (ca. 16th-13th century B.C.)

Material

Limestone

Dimensions

H: 14 cm

Reference

29069

Price

POR

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Overview

This statuette represents a baboon seated on a square base. The animal places its hands on its raised knees and gazes directly forward, in a perfectly natural pose for this species of monkey.
Despite the absence of incised elements indicating the coat in particular (the surface was glazed and perhaps painted), the meticulous rendering of the anatomical details is noteworthy, especially in the baboon’s head that clearly expresses the powerful skull and jaw. The body is fi nely modeled, despite strong and massive proportions, and suggests the agility of the monkey. The legs of the baboon are slightly spread, revealing the genitals; the tail coils around the right thigh. Incisions indicate the fi ngers and the toes.
The cynocephalic baboon, which was found in a comparable form as early as the Predynastic period onward, is well-attested in the Egyptian bestiary. Despite the absence of specifi c attributes, the fi gure can be confi dently identifi ed with the god Thoth. A lunar deity represented as a baboon or an ibis, Toth was worshiped primarily at Hermopolis: his skills were unique, since he oversaw all intellectual activities. He was the master of writing, thought and language, as well as the god who counted, handled numbers, calculated time and regulated the calendar. For this reason, he coordinated the distribution of the off erings between the various gods. A sort of divine secretary, he possessed qualities that made him a great magician and healer. He was also responsible for counting the sins of the deceased when they arrived in front of Osiris in the afterlife.
As the inventor of writing, Thoth was considered the master and patron of scribes, particularly in his cynocephalic form. It was most likely the men who were engaged as scribes who would have worn the numerous baboon-shaped amulets that appeared in tombs of the New Kingdom, especially from the Ramesside period.

Condition

Complete and in excellent condition; appears to have been reglued, some fragments are lost (right foot, end of the tail, for example). Cracks and minor chips, a
few repairs. Eyes inlays now lost, pierced nostrils. Traces of turquoise glaze visible
on the chest.

Provenance

American private collection, acquired at Merrin Gallery, New York, in 1998.

Bibliography

Das Tier in der Antike, 400 Werke ägyptischer, griechischer, etruskischer und
römischer Kunst aus privatem und öffentlichem Besitz, Zurich, 1974, pp. 13-14,
no. 58.
REISNER M.G.A., Amulets (CGC, vol. 29/1), Cairo, 1907, pl. 21.