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Roman-Egyptian bust of "Serapis" in bronze, 1st-2nd century A.D.

Conservation:  Intact
Material:  Bronze
Dimensions:  12,8 cm
Provenance:  Gustave Mustaki, Alexandria, Egypt; exported from Egypt to the UK under licence, 1950 / Elsa MacLellan, Portsmouth, UK; by descent from previous private collection, London, UK / Charles Ede, London, 2019 / This piece is accompanied by an export certificate from the Spanish Ministry of Culture No. 2020/03611 with date 19/06/2020 and certificate of authenticity.
Published:  Pierre Bergé & Associés Archaeology Catalogue, Paris, 21-22th February 2019, page 221, Lot 306.


On request
Ref ede001 Category Tag

This draped bust resting on acanthus leaves is the representation of the god Serapis with a full beard, long moustache and hair with characteristic wavy locks on the forehead, topped by a conical shape engraved with olive branches. It is possible that the eyes were once embedded. It has a green patina with azurites under the chin.
The sculptural aesthetic comes from the Hellenistic world, while the most usual typologies will be the historical relief and the portrait, which intend to advertise the most important characters or events.
The cult of Serapis was introduced into the Egyptian pantheon in the 3rd century B.C. by Ptolemy I in an attempt to unify the Egyptian god Osiris and the sacred bull Apis. A version of this unity was already worshipped by the Egyptians under the name of Osirapis. However, Ptolemy changed the iconography of the god, his image taking many similarities with that of Zeus (divine garments), Asklepios (healing), Hades (the afterlife), Helios (the sun) and Dionysus (fertility). The latter is symbolized through the modius (a measure of corn) often engraved with olive branches or ears of wheat. The aspects of fertility and life after death were key in the worship of Osiris, and naturally became the two defining features in the worship of Serapis.
His final image was deliberately more Hellenic than Egyptian, as the Greeks were not accustomed to the worship of zoomorphic deities. When the Romans conquered Egypt in 30 B.C. Serapis became part of their pantheon, his image was found all over the empire.

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