Statue of the god Bes
Bes, the Egyptian protector of infants and expectant mothers, is distinguished by his unusual iconography. The body is stocky, the legs are bowed and the face is similar to a mask, with a snarling mouth, protruding tongue, and the large swollen eyes marked by deep lines.
In this specimen from the Roman Age there are various traditional features such as the low forehead, the short snub nose, and the fan-shaped beard; the god is however shown here seated on a rock, with his hands resting on his knees, as in the other two examples unearthed in Rome and now preserved in the Museo Barracco and in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
The mouth was probably readjusted in the modern age, and the upper lip appears to protrude, in contrast to the traditional Egyptian iconography.
On the head there is a hole which would have housed a metal attribute or a bolt that would have supported another stone element, possibly the feathered headdress typical of Bes.
A lion’s pelt covers the head and back, and is tied at the mouth. The lion’s forepaws rest on the god’s shoulders, while the lower paws are positioned at the side against his thighs. The name is rendered in the form of a crest with large separate locks extending along his back.
He wears a bulla around his neck, an unusual attribute for this deity in the Egyptian context, but which in the Roman world was associated with childhood and had apotropaic value.
This detail confirms the understanding and assimilation on the part of Roman culture of the original meaning of this deity. The statue was acquired in 1814 by the antiquarian Francesco de Sanctis.
Roman Period, 1st-2nd century AD. Parian marble, height 90 cm; width 39 cm; depth 41 cm. Now in the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, Vatican Museums. Cat. 22842