Statue of the cat goddess Bastet
Yesterday when I was looking through depictions of women in ancient Egypt, I noticed the above statue of the goddess Bastet as a domestic cat. It’s a delightful, relaxed, natural portrait of that small, furry, domesticated mammal that has been palling around with us for millennia, and it was on my mind all day.
For some reason, Bastet came to be associated with cosmetics in Egyptian cosmology (or cosmetology, for that matter). Here she is lounging on an alabaster cosmetic jar from King Tut’s tomb.
Very strict formal conventions were followed in Egyptian art, including rules about symbols representing gods or the social roles of royalty. These conventions have a way of looking stultified to us, so that when we look at Egyptian tomb portraits (with the exception of those of the Armana period), we can miss the humor and observation that is also in those portraits.
Cats lend themselves to looking regal anyway, but the jewelry is a nice touch. This is the Gayer-Anderson Cat, from about 664-332 BC.
This is less apparent in their animal portraits. One gets a real sense of a people who love and understand animals and the natural world. How much they would have enjoyed social media, with its endless stream of cat postings!
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