A limestone stela showing the god Bes in front view and nude. He is depicted in a way typical for the god, as a bandy legged deformed dwarf (or, more precisely, a lion-man). He has an ugly, grimacing human face with a protruding tongue and wide eyes, round, lionine ears and animal hair or manes. He is wearing a crown, consisting of a cavetto cornice and five feathers or plumes, the ribs and veining of which are indicated.
Bes is brandishing a sword in his raised right hand to ward off any danger. In his lowered left hand he is grasping a scaled serpent, its long tail curling up; by doing so Bes demonstrates that he controls the forces of evil, in this case embodied in the snake.
The function of such stelae is not quite clear. Obviously they had a defensive function, but the context is unknown. Possibly they were intended to guard a house, or more precisely the bedroom; it is also possible that they had a special task in protecting a mother, perhaps birth-giving, or a child. It has also been suggested that they were votive offerings placed in a temple, expressing gratitude for protection against dangers, illness or misfortune.
Ptolemaic - Early Roman Period, circa third century B.C. – second century C.E.
Provenance: New York private collection; thereafter Hixenbaugh Ancient Art, New York, acquired at auction; therafter collection of Elizabeth Nutt, New Hampshire, acquired in 2001; thereafter Harlan J. Berk, Chicago.