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Cat's Head

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

Glass or precious stone inlays in the eyes once enhanced this cat’s lifelike appearance. The realistically rendered head also contains symbolic elements that are not immediately apparent. The incised details of fur on the ears evoke the shape of an ostrich feather, [feather hieroglyph], the hieroglyph for the goddess Maat—another daughter of Re, and the personification of truth and harmony.

Unlike simple loop earrings, which typically adorn cat’s heads like this one, these earrings follow the ornate style popular in Roman Egypt.
MEDIUM Bronze, gold
  • Place Made: Africa
  • DATES 30 B.C.E. to 3rd century C.E.
    PERIOD Roman Period
    DIMENSIONS 2 3/8 x 1 3/4 x 1 13/16 in. (6 x 4.4 x 4.6 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Cat's Head, 30 B.C.E. to 3rd century C.E. Bronze, gold, 2 3/8 x 1 3/4 x 1 13/16 in. (6 x 4.4 x 4.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 36.114_PS6.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 36.114_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION A small bronze head of a cat to base of neck. The ears are pierced and have gold discoid and pendant earrings which appear to be ancient and contemporary with the head. The eyes were originally inset and still have extensive traces of the glass inlay. There are slight incisions on the large ears. The interior of the head is hollow and corroded. Remnants of linen adhere to this interior surface. The head is probably from a small chest or sarcophagus containing the mummy of an animal. It is a late piece. Condition, the base is nicked, the surface appears to be peeling in spots.
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