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Statue of the Apis Bull

Date 7th and 6th centuries B.C.
Object type sculpture
Medium, technique bronze; hollow cast with wax process

14.3 x 13.5 cm

Inventory number 51.2314
Collection Egyptian Art
On view This artwork can be displayed at the permanent exhibition

This fine votive bronze statuette of outstanding quality depicting a proportionately represented Apis bull dates from Dynasty XXVI of the Saite Period, from Memphis. The bull strides forward with its front left leg. It is wearing a sun disc with a ureus snake between its horns. Its body is covered with various decorations (an ornamented band, an elaborate blanket) and symbols with cosmic significance (a winged scarab on its shoulder, the figure of the vulture goddess engravedon its back). The white spot on the forehead was one of the physical marks that helped priests decide upon a successor – i.e. the new incarnation of – the one and only Apis bull at any given time, held in the Ptah temple district in Memphis, after his death. Votive statuettes were made after large statues standing in a temple’s forecourt (Apeion) and were offered at religious festivals. The inscriptions on bronze Apis statues typically contained formulae expressing the desire of the one who had the statue erected to be reborn. The cult of Apis was closely linked to Osiris and the state of Egypt, and the animal was also regarded as being the living image or manifestation of the Memphite god Ptah. The body of the dead Apis bull was buried in the so-called Serapeum in Saqqara, the necropolis of Memphis.

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