Ptah and Sekhmet

Ancient Egypt, 7th - 6th century BC

This group belongs to a widespread type of Ancient Egyptian temple sculpture showing a married couple of divinities. This monument formed part of the decoration of a temple and was an object of veneration, possibly a gift to the temple from an individual. Cut from a single block of black basalt are the two figures of the god-creator Ptah and his lion-headed wife, the terrible goddess of war and the burning sun, Sekhmet, both of whom formed part of the famous Triad of the ancient capital of Egypt, Memphis. Ptah is shown, according to tradition, in a long clinging robe, wearing his typical headgear - a small round cap - and with a ritual beard. In his hands the god holds a rod made up of combined symbols: the uas in the lower part, and the djed for the upper. Nearby, in a slightly smaller scale, is Sekhmet in a classical pose, with her left leg stretched out in front. The goddess's head is crowned with the disc of the sun and a ureus symbol in the form of a cobra. In her left hand Sekhmet holds a rod, while in her right, the ankh or symbol of life. Compositionally, these elongated figures are not linked to one another and yet the treatment of volume and the smooth conveying of the muscles seem to emphasize the unity of the block of basalt. Statues from this period had their stone surfaces very carefully polished. The proportions of the figures and Ptah's facial type - the broad oval shape, the full cheeks and pouting lips, the relief treatment of the eyebrows and the thick outline of the eyes - are characteristic of monuments of the Sais period (663-524 BC), during which Egyptian masters turned to the traditions of the classical heritage.


Ptah and Sekhmet




58 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1919; transferred from the Institute of the History of Art; previously in the collection of Sondarev

Inventory Number: