replica: from the Staatlichen Museen, Berlin
gift of: Peter and Doris Bietenholz
date of the original: 750-650 B.C.
provenance of the original: Egypt, now in the Egyptian Museum, Berlin
description: Figurine of the god Bes. Plaster replica; blue faience original. Height 16.5 cm, width 8 cm, depth 2 cm.
Protector of women and children and the sun god Ra, Bes was a household god characterized as a bandy-legged dwarf. Originally, Bes spirits wore the skins of lions on their backs. Over time, they were depicted with only lion’s ears and tails. The lion symbolism may have come from Bes’ possible Sudanese origins; the god made his appearance in Egypt in the Twelfth Dynasty (2000-1790 BC).
Bes was called upon in times of illness and used music to frighten away evil spirits. His head is often depicted over the figure of a naked child as a protective guardian. His facial expressions varied from jolly to fierce.
His image came to be a common amulet (see: Faience Amulets), which many wore around the neck. His likeness has also been found on mirrors, beds, head-rests, cosmetic pots, stelae, and altars. Bes had no temple and was dependent on individual summons.