Cult Image Statuette of the God Ptah

This statuette depicts Ptah, the chief god of Egypt’s capital city Memphis, who is easy to identify by his tight-fitting cap and enveloping shroud. Other iconographic details, such as the royal beard, the large and detailed broad collar, the scepter of merged “was” and “djed” signs, and a platform representing the hieroglyph for universal order, as well as the brilliant blue stone, communicate four important epithets: Lord of Lower Egypt, Master Craftsman, Lord of Truth, and Lord of the Sky.

The superior carving of the god’s face, scepter, and jewelry is astonishing for a piece of such diminutive size and hard stone. Its style and quality suggests the sculpture was made in a royal workshop and most likely intended for use as a votive piece in Ptah’s large temple at Memphis or in a small shrine dedicated to the god elsewhere in Egypt.

Cult Image of the God Ptah
Cult Image of the God Ptah

Ptah seems to be one of the oldest deities in the Egyptian pantheon and is attested as early as the 1st Dynasty. However, the great god of Memphis was originally only a local deity, his importance grew over time and he came to play extremely important tasks .

The role played by the city of Memphis was certainly fundamental in his rise: it was originally called Ineb-hedj (White Walls) and it was the administrative capital of Egypt at the time of the unification of the country, around 3000 BC.

Mythologically, Ptah’s consort was the lioness goddess Sekhmet and together with their son Nefertem they made up the major triad of the Theban region.

The lapis lazuli is a very fine-grained rock consisting mainly of lazurite, a mineral responsible for the intense blue color, introduced in Egypt since the fourth millennium BC where it was used for the production of amulets, jewelry and inlays.

It then spread to Greece and Crete until it reached the Etruscans and the Romans. In Europe this stone spread from the fifth century AD, where it was used both as a precious stone and as a natural pigment, the ultramarine blue.

Third Intermediate Period – early 26th Dynasty, ca. 945-600 BC. Now in the Metropolitan Museum. 2007.24