Relief of the God Ptah
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
The complex nature of Egyptian deities is often indicated by their attributes. Osiris’s tightly wrapped mummy shroud and his crook and flail (symbolizing kingship) point to the legend of Osiris’s murder, mummification, and subsequent resurrection as the ruler of the underworld. The cobra held by his wife, Isis, represents the magic that revived her husband and guarded their son, Horus. As the rightful heir to Osiris’s throne and the embodiment of kingship, the falcon-god Horus wears the Double Crown.
Animals can also reveal divine qualities. The cow or cow-human forms of Hathor refer to her role as provider of milk to Horus and to young kings of Egypt. Bastet, another benevolent female deity, appears as a cat or cat-headed woman, carrying a basket and sistrum.
Certain deities, including Neith, Ptah, Nefertem, and Imhotep, were portrayed in human form. The ancient protectress Neith, associated with war and hunting, wears the flat-topped Red Crown of Lower Egypt. The Memphite creator-god Ptah holds a staff with hieroglyphs for life and permanence. Ptah’s son, Nefertem, a lotus on his head (symbolizing rebirth), defends Maat with his scimitar. Imhotep, the deified architect of Djoser’s pyramid, shares Ptah’s close-fitting cap, and the papyrus on his lap emphasizes wisdom and creativity.
4th-3rd century B.C.E.
Late Period to Ptolemaic Period
5 1/4 x 3 5/8 x 7/8 in. (13.4 x 9.2 x 2.3 cm) (show scale)
Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc.
Relief of the God Ptah, 4th-3rd century B.C.E. Stucco, 5 1/4 x 3 5/8 x 7/8 in. (13.4 x 9.2 x 2.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., 86.226.17. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 86.226.17_PS1.jpg)
overall, 86.226.17_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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