Skip Navigation

Magical Relief

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

Although the winged god with a lion’s face and legs resembles Bes, this image is a composite of several forces represented by the multiple animal heads on the god’s crown. This multifaceted feline divinity stands over bound captives and animals symbolizing chaos—scorpion, turtle, and, apparently, a lion—because they inhabit the dangerous desert or marshes. The god’s power over chaos suggests his protective function.

Originally, water flowed through the opening at the bottom of the stela, providing magical security, curing ailments and preventing harm.
CULTURE Egyptian
MEDIUM Limestone
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • DATES 305–30 B.C.E.
    PERIOD Ptolemaic Period
    DIMENSIONS 31 1/2 x 25 1/2 x 5 in., 238 lb. (80 x 64.8 x 12.7 cm, 107.96kg) with mount: 322 lb. (146.06kg)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Soft limestone stela. The central portion of the piece is occupied by a large four-handed figure of the god Bes. He wears a high crown decorated with various animal heads. His two upper hands support figures which occupy the upper corner of the stela, the left figure being a cynocephalus ape, the right an ibis, emblems of the god Thoth. Behind the body of the god are elongated figures which may be conventionalized serpents. At the feet of Bes are two bound captives. Below these figures is a register with three bound and kneeling captives at each end, the intervening space being filled by three animal figures which appear to be a lobster, crab, and a lion-like animal. There is a semi-circular opening in the middle of this register. It probably served a magical purpose in guarding Egypt from the foreign invaders depicted in the captive figures. The workmanship is good. Condition: The limestone is extremely soft and is chipping in various places. The base of the piece is badly weathered and there are numerous chips, the head of the ibis being badly chipped.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Egyptian. Magical Relief, 305–30 B.C.E. Limestone, 31 1/2 x 25 1/2 x 5 in., 238 lb. (80 x 64.8 x 12.7 cm, 107.96kg). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.229. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 37.229_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 37.229_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2016
    "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.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.