Egyptian Bronze Apis Bull

SKU: MS.0044

Origin: Egypt
Circa: Late Dynastic to Ptolemaic Period, c. 664 to 30 BC
Dimensions: 4.1" Height (10.5cms)
Medium: Bronze

Apis, “the king of all sacred animals,” is depicted in this fine votive bronze statue.  Striding forward on a rectangular integral plinth, his body is marked with characteristic incised designs, including a broad collar, a winged scarab on the back of his neck, a tasseled rosette-decorated blanket over his back, and a winged-vulture on his hindquarters.. The eyes are inlaid with gold and even though the horns and solar disc are now missing, this beautifully cast image, still remains an exceptional example of the type.

with Elias S. David (1891-1969), New York; thence by descent

Intact as preserved, with the solar disk and horns now missing. The tenons on the underside cut in modern times. Minor surface wear and pitting throughout, with a dark patina and some malachite, particularly to the upper head.

Popular throughout Egyptian history, the cult of Apis was not that of all bulls, but rather of a special, carefully chosen individual animal. Apis was a live bull kept in the temple of Ptah, in Memphis. More than a sacred animal, Apis was the living, breathing expression of a primary god that could not be directly experienced in daily life. Apis served as an intermediary between humans and an all-powerful god (originally Ptah, later Osiris, then Atum). Through Apis, Egyptians could talk to the god, and even ask questions.

In his sanctuary, Apis was cared for attentively. He was fed the best foods, slept on luxurious bedding, given hot baths, massaged, and perfumed. Every day, he was allowed to frolic for a while in the attached courtyard, watched by believers who hoped to communicate with Ptah and find answers to their questions by interpreting his moves as oracles.

For other examples of similar bronze bulls, see G. Roeder, ‘Ägyptische Bronzefiguren’ (1956), pls. 47-8.

S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1992), p. 90, fig. 70.

Petrie, W. M. Flinders
1972 Religious Life in Ancient Egypt. Cooper Square Publishers, New York, NY. (10,187)

Bleeker, C. J.
1967 Egyptian Festivals; Enactments of Religious Renewal. E. J. Brill, Leiden, Netherlands. (32,100)

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Late Dynastic

Egyptian Bronze Apis Bull

Late Dynastic

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