A closer look at a miraculously well-preserved 2,500-year-old sculpture — offered during Classic Week in London
‘This object is 2,500 years old — preserved miraculously by the Egyptian desert,’ reveals specialist Laetitia Delaloye, discussing a beautiful cast offered in The Resandro Collection on 6 December, adorned, unexpectedly, with a pair of golden earrings.
The sculpture offers a fascinating insight into an ancient civilization’s culture. ‘Ancient Egyptians made offerings to the gods they worshipped, each of which was linked to a sacred animal,’ explains Delaloye. The cat was associated with the goddess Bastet, daughter of the sun god Ra, and so was particularly important.
‘Bastet could be represented either as a cat, or a cat-headed woman,’ continues the specialist. Initially worshipped as the protector goddess of Lower Egypt, she is depicted as a fierce lion in early artistic representations — the name Bastet translated, fittingly, as ‘devourer’. Later, Bastet became associated with sunrise, music and dance, as well as family, fertility and birth.
‘Ancient Egyptians would make offerings to their gods in the form of animal sacrifices, which they believed would grant good wishes and protection,’ continues Delaloye. ‘This beautiful decoration would have been placed on top of a mummified cat, which would have been expertly wrapped, and buried in an animal cemetery.’
And the earrings? The addition, explains Delaloye, is both decorative and intended to suggest the goddess’s personality. ‘It’s probably an attempt to embellish the piece of art, and to make it look more human.’ The fine details on the sculpture, from the cat’s eyes to its whiskers and its ears, make it astonishingly lifelike more than two millennia after it was first made.