Lion-Headed Deity With Cobra Headdress
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Lion-Headed Deity with Cobra Headdress
Work Type
statuette, sculpture
664-525 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Late Period, Dynasty 26
Level 3, Room 3740, Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art
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Physical Descriptions
Leaded bronze, gold inlay
Cast, lost-wax process
53 cm h x 14 cm w x 26.7 cm d (20 7/8 x 5 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: Body
XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron
Comments: The eye is inlaid with silver. The main alloy has the same elements as 1943.1121.B.

XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Silver Inlay
Alloying Elements: silver, gold

K. Eremin, January 2014

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 73.94; Sn, 8.02; Pb, 17.61; Zn, 0.103; Fe, 0.15; Ni, 0.04; Ag, 0.03; Sb, 0.09; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.022; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The lion-headed deity is a hollow lost-wax cast. Cracks and casting flaws are present at the lower arms and lower legs. Some porosity is also visible in areas, especially the head and headdress. The remains of black core material are present at the interior. A buff-colored material under the base at the feet may relate to an ancient or modern mounting system, but does not appear to be core material. Although x-radiography shows the legs to be solid to the mid-thigh, cracks in the surface reveal what appears to be a cavity and core material. It is possible that the thickness of the bronze at the legs prevented x-rays from penetrating the metal and showing this. X-radiography does show an interior flash of metal near the bottom of the base caused by a crack in the core material. Seven core pins are evident on the surface and in the x-radiographs on the figure at the back of the head and chest and on all sides of the throne. They are rectangular, measuring from 1.5 x 2.0 mm to 2.0 x 4.0 mm. Several are intact and are visible at the interior.

Although the corroded condition of the surface makes it difficult to be sure, it appears that the incised surface decorations were drawn directly in the wax model for the bronze. The gold foil decorations are 0.1 to 0.2 mm thick. Abrasive cleaning marks are present at the knees and head. The patina is green and brown with areas of red. Interior surfaces exhibit dark blue azurite crystals and areas of a light bluish green identified by R. Gettens as chalconatronite.

Henry Lie (submitted 2000)

Ex collections Dourighello, W. Randolph Hearst, Grenville Lindall Winthrop.
Bought by Winthrop from Brummer Gallery, Inc. (NY) June 5, 1939 (Brummer inv. no. N4664).
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
1943.1121.A: Deity seated on a throne, both feet resting on a dais, and wearing the uraeus, but no crown (figure on left in image). Fur of mane and muzzle incised. Eyes inlaid with gold. Broadcloth incised. Chest is otherwise bare, deity wears an above-the-knee kilt. Both arms are bent at the elbow and the hands rest near the knees. Proper right hand is fisted, palm down, thumb extended. Proper left hand once held a staff (ankh) and is connected to the body with a support. The sides of the throne are incised with scenes enclosed with a geometric border. The piece is too damaged to make out the subjects of each scene. The scene incised on the proper right side of the throne includes an eye in the upper left corner of the field. Below the eye is a figure whose body is depicted frontally, but whose head, feet, and arms are turned to the right. The figure wears a tunic and skirt and holds aloft a bowl in both hands which s/he appears to extend toward the right. Unfortunately, the rest of the scene towards which the figure looks cannot be discerned. Below the figure, the bottom portion of the scene is covered by a repeated pattern of u-shaped incisions, of the sort often used to depict mountains. There are also scenes incised on the back of the throne and on the proper left side, but only bits of the geometric border can be discerned at present. Brown patina with bright green patches.

1943.1121.B: Seated lion-headed figure (Sekhmet) (figure on right in image). Figure wears ankle length garment, broadcloth, and Uraeus crown. The crown consists of an incised cylinder to which is attached a flat, double-humped rectangular piece. A sphere surrounded by a flaring u-shaped roll deocrates the front of this raised part of the crown. The head of a uraeus extends from the cylinder, below the raised portion. The fur of the mane and muzzle is incised. The eyes may once have been inlaid with gold, now missing. Naked torso. Both arms bent at the elbow and rest near knees. Proper right hand extended, palm down. Proper left hand once held some sort of staff (ankh) and is attached to thigh by a support. Incised on the back of the throne is the image of a hawk enclosed by a box which is demarkated by a border. Below the hawk in a separate box demarkated by a similar border is an incised scene of a lion-headed figure in profile kneeling within an arch. The figure's outstretched hands grasp either side of the arch. Figure balances a sphere atop head. The figure kneels on a platform indicated by an incised line which balances atop a diamond. There is another incised scene on the side panel to the left of the base. The field is divided into two boxes demarkated by the same border as in the previous scenes, the lower of which is filled with a narrow geometric design. In the upper box is an incised depiction of the lion-headed figure sitting in profile upon a lotus flower from which extend seven smaller blooms from each side of the flower. The effect of these flowers is a lotus flower boat in which the lion-headed figure rides. The figure again balances a sphere atop her head. There are a few hieroglyphs in the upper right field. A similar scene decorates the side panel to the right of the base. The scene is again divided into two boxes demarkated by the same border. The lower box includes the same narrow geometric design. The upper box depicts a lion-headed figure in profile sitting in a similar lotus-boat. This time the figure wears the crown of upper and lower Egypt on her head, not a sphere. There is a hieroglyph in the upper left field. Green patina. One of a pair.
Publication History

Dows Dunham, "The Egyptian Antiquities", Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum (1943), Vol. 10, No. 2, 40-43, p. 41, fig. 5.

Clifford Frondel, "On Paratacamite and Some Related Copper Chlorides", Mineralogical Magazine (1950), Vol. 42, 34-45

Clifford Frondel and Rutherford John Gettens, "Chalconatronite, a new Mineral from Egypt", Science (1955), Vol. 122, No. 3158, 75-76, p. 75.

Rutherford John Gettens and Clifford Frondel, "Chalconatronite: An Alteration Product on Some Ancient Egyptian Bronzes", Studies in Conservation (1955), Vol. 2, No. 2, 64-75, figs. 1a-b.

Jacques Vandier, “Quadjet et l’Horus léontocéphale de Bouto", Monuments et Memoires, Fondation Eugène Piot (1967), Vol. 255, 17-21, figs. 3b, 5.

Dorothy W. Gillerman, Gridley McKim-Smith, and Joan R. Mertens, Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1969), p. 256 (checklist).

Rutherford John Gettens, "Patina: Noble and Vile", Art and Technology: a Symposium on Classical Bronzes, ed. Suzannah F. Doeringer, David Gordon Mitten, and Arthur Steinberg, M.I.T. Press (Cambridge, MA, 1970), 57-68, p. 63.

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), p. 94, no. 102, ill.

Séan Hemingway and Julie Wolfe, "Art and Technology: The Study of Ancient Bronzes at the Harvard University Art Museums into the 21st Century", Proceedings of the XVth International Congress of Classical Archaeology, Amsterdam, July 12-17, 1998, ed. Ronald F. Docter and Charlotte Moormann, Allard Pierson Series (Amsterdam, 1999), 196-99, p. 197.

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/Handbook, exh. cat. (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008)

Exhibition History

Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011

Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Ancient Bronzes

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Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted