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Egyptian walking Ibis figure, Late Period-Ptolemaic Period, 664-30 B.C.

Conservation:  Good condition
Material:  Wood and bronze
Dimensions:  22 cm wide including stand; 871 gr.
Provenance:  Drouot, Paris, c.1990. From an important gallery in Paris, France. Ex Parisian private collection/ Acquired at auction in UK, November, 2022. This lot has been checked against the Interpol database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by search certificate no. 114470-194044


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This majestic statuette depicts the god Thot in the form of a sacred African ibis, modelled with the left leg placed in front of the right, in the attitude of striding cautiously along marshy banks. The ibis, with an ovoid wooden body, has a cast-bronze neck and head with a long curved beak and well-detailed feet and legs. The curved beak of the ibis was like the crescent moon, which is why this bird became a symbol of the moon god. The figure has surviving polychrome details on the body and tail, stylised eyes and some details on the beak. The dark blue inlays on the tail imitate the dark feathers of the sacred ibis. The ibis represented Thoth, the god of wisdom, knowledge and writing.

The bronze parts of this piece are likely to have been made using the lost-wax technique, which was used for statuary in Ancient Egypt from the Middle Kingdom onwards. This technique consisted of moulding the object in beeswax, making sprues in it and covering it with a thin layer of semi-liquid clay. Once this layer had dried and hardened, it was heated in a brazier so that the wax was consumed and left a hollow impression in the overheated clay until it became terracotta. Molten metal from a crucible was then poured through the channels, producing an exact copy of the original model. Finally, the mould was broken, the excess metal removed and the figure polished. In this way, using the lost-wax technique, statues were cast in gold, silver and solid bronze.


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