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: Amulet of Bes

Amulet of Bes

Historical period(s)
Third Intermediate Period or later, ca. 1075-656 B.C.E or later
Faience (glazed composition)
H x W x D: 4.1 x 2.2 x 1.9 cm (1 5/8 x 7/8 x 3/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
Amulet consisting of head and torso of a Bes figure, with bright blue glaze. Bes is a dwarf-like human figure with leonine characteristics. He wears a plumed headdress. Both arms are bent. The right hand cups his breast and in the left hand he holds a small figure to his breast. The smaller suckling figure is either a baboon or a smaller Bes figure.

The figure is broken off just below the waist. It has been re-used in modern times and has a gold pin mounting on the back.

Small amulets made of faience, stone, ceramic, metal, or glass were common personal possessions in ancient Egypt. They were most frequently fashioned in the form of gods and goddesses or of animals sacred to them. Amulets were believed to give their owners magical protection from a wide variety of ills and evil forces, including sickness, infertility, and death in childbirth. They were often provided with loops so they could be strung and worn as a necklace. Some amulets were made to place on the body of the deceased to protect the soul in the hereafter.

Deities and animals represented in the group displayed here are among the subjects most favored for amulets. Taweret, the hippopotamus-headed goddess, and Bes, the dwarf god wearing tall plumes, protected women during childbirth. Cats often symbolized Bastet, a goddess of fertility. Other deities include Sakhmet, the lioness-headed goddess; the ram-headed Khnum, god of creation; and Thoth, god of wisdom, appearing as an ape or vervet monkey. Amulets specifically intended to protect the soul after death often depict Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the underworld, or Duamutef, the jackal-headed son of Horus, who protected the stomach.

To 1907
Unidentified owner, Egypt, to 1907 [1]

From 1907 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased in Egypt from an unidentified owner in 1907 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Pottery List, L. 1873, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Former owner
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919)
On View Location
Currently not on view
Bes, Egypt, protection, Third Intermediate Period (ca. 1075 - 656 BCE)
Collection(s) Area
Ancient Egyptian Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.