A Collector’s Menagerie: Animal Sculpture from the Ancient World
A COLLECTOR’S MENAGERIE
ANIMAL SCULPTURE FROM THE ANCIENT WORLD
Ever since he first drew on the walls of his cave, man has had the desire to depict the creatures around him. The Sladmore Galle
one time and was installed next to the temple of Ptah at Memphis where it was supplied with a harem of cows, fed choice morsels, visited by pious worshippers and delivered oracles. A fine bronze statuette of such a bull, dating from the Late Dynastic Period, 25th-31st Dynasty, 715-332 BC, is included in the exhibition.
The crocodile represented the god Sobek and was feared as a destroyer of the corpse, denying the deceased an afterlife. Because of its speed in catching its prey, the reptile came to symbolise royal might and, as its natural environment was the waters in which creation began, it also had regenerative associations. A rare bronze statuette of a crocodile in the exhibition dates from the Ptolemaic Period, 332-30 BC.
The baboon was the form adopted by both Egyptian lunar gods, Khonsu of Thebes and Thoth of Hermopolis in Middle Egypt because of its curious behaviour at dawn when it sat on its hind legs, waved its front paws in the air and screeched thus making it a lunar creature as well as a creature of the sun with foreknowledge of the sun’s arrival. The exhibition includes a bronze baboon sitting on top of a column, dating from the Late Dynastic Period, 25th-31st Dynasty, 715-332 BC.
Thoth was the only god who adopted the animal manifestation of the ibis. The species, which is no longer extant in Egypt, was embalmed in huge numbers during the Late Period and images abounded. The exhibition includes an impressive example in bronze and wood, particularly notable for its size and superb finish, from the Late Dynastic Period, 25th-31st Dynasty, 715-332 BC. The head, legs and feet are chased bronze while the body is painted and gessoed wood.
The falcon was revered from earliest times and was also strongly associated with creation and regeneration and was therefore a form adopted by a number of Egyptian gods. The exhibition includes two fine examples of idealized falcons, both dating from the Dynastic Period. The largest, from the 25th-31st Dynasty, 715-332 BC, is made of wood while the other, from the 26th Dynasty, 664-525 BC, is of bronze.
Over the centuries and across the various ancient civilizations, animal forms have served as vessels, inspired decoration or even played a functional role. For example, a Near Eastern terracotta rhyton or drinking vessel, 1100-800 BC, takes the form of a Zebu or humped bull, while a bronze rhyton from Luristan (in present-day Iran), early 1st millennium, is shaped as an elongated cow’s head. The delightful painting of fish on a Greek terracotta red figure plate is attributed to the Hippocamp Painter, 320-300 BC. Dating from the 5th-4th century BC, a bronze sleeve weight or amulet from Inner Mongolia is distinctly feline and, like the rare Roman bronze hound head terminal which was probably a chariot fitting, dating from 1st-2nd century AD, has survived and is appreciated as a stunning sculpture in its own right.
Animals also feature prominently in items intended for adornment, objects that were