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Statue of Nefer-tem


Artist: Unknown Egyptian Artist Primary
Date: 685-525 BCE
Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.94 x 2.31 in. (16.51 x 2.38 x 5.87 cm)
Object Type: Ritual Object
Creation Place: Middle East, Egypt
Medium and Support: Bronze
Credit Line: Lent by the Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of David Dows, Ph.B. 1908 (1945.167).
Accession Number: L2020.05.09
On View: Bellarmine Hall Galleries


This statue depicts the ancient Egyptian god Nefert-tem, the mythological child of the deities Sekhmet and Ptah. Nefer-tem was associated with lotus blossoms, the sunrise, and rebirth.
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This statuette was created roughly between the years 685-525 BCE, during the Saite Period. During this period, the Egyptians were able to successfully gain back control over their country from the Assyrians. In it, Nefer-tem's face appears young and serene. He is identified by the crown on the top of his head. The scale of the crown itself is large in proportion to the figure and depicts a flowering lotus held up by two horns.

The material of the statuette is bronze, a substance fairly abundant within the Middle East during the Late Period. Bronze was not limited to only elite purchase, as it was produced from an inexpensive and abundantly available resource. The Egyptians executed many of their pieces using copper alloys, including bronze. However, statues of gods were typically produced from gold and silver, materials identified by myth as their skin and bones.

Although it is not specified what type of ritual this statuette was used for, inferences from similar figurines produced during the Late Period (664-332 B.C.E.) can provide contextual clues to what an object this size and stature would typically be involved with. This statuette was most likely not created for pure aesthetic or viewing purposes, but built with the functional purpose of a ritual object. The small scale of the figure also supports the theory of the figure's use as a ritual object as, the statuette is portable, light-weight and can be easily handled by a single person.

Julianna Tabback '23

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In this portrait Nefertum is wearing a nemes headdress which would have been worn by kings in ancient Egypt. He is facing the viewer and is positioned with one foot in front of the other in mid-step.
He is shown wearing a kilt indicating that he is a male, as well as the curved false beard indicating his status as a god.

According to ancient Egyptian mythology, Nefer-tem came to existence from a blue lotus bud that came from the waters of Nun in the beginning of time. Each day Nefer-tem experiences a repeating cycle starting with being born at sunset, becoming the god Atum during the daytime and dying at sunset to be reborn again the next day. The lotus flowers Nefer-tem originated from contained real-world medicinal properties,and Nefer-tem was described bringing lotus flowers for the god Ra to help with his pain. Ancient Egyptians would also carry small statuettes of of the good as protective amulets.

Clarissa Rotonto '22



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