Statuette of Ptah the Creator

Ancient Egypt,
Gallery 6, Ground Floor.


Focus on the Object

This solid bronze statuette of the Egyptian god Ptah is a masterpiece of miniature sculpture and the finest Egyptian bronze in the Ashmolean’s collection. It probably dates from the 26th Dynasty (664-525 BC).

How it was made: The statuette would have been made in a mould, formed by the ‘lost wax’ process, and cast upside down. A vertical channel would have been left at the mouth of the mould into which molten metal would have been poured. When casting was complete, the channel would form a spike under the figure’s feet which would allow it to be fixed onto a base. The forked was-sceptre, a symbol of power bearing the head of the mythical Seth animal, was made in three pieces and then slipped into his hands.

Craftsmanship: The quality of workmanship suggests that this object was produced by a master craftsman. Especially rare and interesting are the areas which have been stained black to contrast with the body colour - such as the facial features, cap, beard, jewellery and the objects he holds. This effect is heightened by the exquisite gold and silver details which are are still visible in the eyes, bracelets and bead collar.

Religious belief: Small bronze figures of divine beings appeared most notably from the 26th Dynasty (664-525 BC) to the Roman Imperial period. They were used by individuals for private dedication or contemplation, either within a temple or a personal shrine. Before this time, major gods of Egypt were remote beings to be approached only through mediation of the Pharaoh.