Egyptian Sandstone Relief of a Bearded Deity

SKU: MS.0012

Origin: Egypt
Circa: New Kingdom, Ramesside Period, 19th to 20th Dynasty, c. 1307 - 1070 BC
Dimensions: 14" Height x 17.75" Width x 4.25" Depth (35.5 cm x 45 cm x 10.8 cm) with stand
Medium: Sandstone

This striking image, sculpted in sunken relief of a male bearded deity, likely represents Hapi, the Nile God.  The features are prominent, with boldly carved lines, sharp contours, and deep relief.  The God faces right, wearing a striated tripartite wig, and an elongated false beard.  The eye. extended cosmetic lines and brow are all rendered with delicate precision, while faint traces of original pigment remain to areas of the face and shoulder.  The border frames the back of the deity's head creating a pyramidal composition of both balance and grace.

Private collection, UK, acquired 1970s

Repaired from three fragments with infill and overpainting along repair lines. Repair line running from right hand edge as illustrated across nose, through cheek, under ear and diagonally up through wig. Another, visible on reverse, starting about 4 cm. from left hand bottom corner on reverse, running horizontally to about a third of the way across the back, and then running diagonally down to the right hand edge. Overall with weathered, slightly rough surface, with minor nicks and chips. Above the shoulder, a shallow groove running horizontally across false beard to edge of neck. Small worn nick to upper eyeline at outer edge of eye. Remains of white and yellow pigment, particularly within ear, at top of shoulder, within incised facial profile lines, and within striations of wig. Mottled pinky brown colour overall. Two circular drilled holes on rear for mounting, with brass fittings and mounted on a dark wood base.

The god Hapi was primarily identified by the Egyptians as the inundation of the Nile - its yearly flooding which brought fertility to the land through widespread watering and the new silt spread over the fields by the swollen river. While it is often stated that Hapi was purely this inundation rather than simply the Nile itself, there are some indications of overlap, so that it is sometimes possible to characterize the god as representing the divine power of the Nile in general. More usually, however, Hapi is clearly the Nile Flood and the inundation was called by the Egyptians 'the arrival of Hapi'. The Nile was both the primary source of life in ancient Egypt and, by virtue of its cyclic rhythm, a manifestation of cosmic order. So in this sense Hapi is thus called creator god and even 'father of the gods' due to his life-giving and creative ability. He was also appealed to as a caring father and a god who maintained balance in the cosmos.

Representations of Hapi usually show the god as a swollen-bellied man wearing an abbreviated belt or loincloth and with long hair and pendulous, female breasts. Often, the god was depicted with a clump of papyrus upon his head, and he is frequently shown carrying papyrus and lotus stems and bearing a tray laden with offerings. Most often he was shown with blue skin, though other colors are occasionally found as in the case of the present relief. All of these attributes represented the fertility Hapi supplied and as such were interchangeable with those of other so-called fecundity figures.

Richard B. Wilkinson, 2003, The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt.


New Kingdom

Egyptian Sandstone Relief of a Bearded Deity

New Kingdom

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