This wooden figure is an interesting representation of three principal Egyptian deities, combining Ptah, god of creation, the arts, and fertility, Soker, god of the deceased, with Osiris, god of the afterlife and resurrection. The deity in this guise was especially popular at Saqqara, south of the Nile delta. It is finely modeled, with particular attention to detail, especially its face, with a realistic countenance, evoking its supreme being. This has been accomplished by an esteemed craftsman who balanced the proportion of the cheekbones, ears, eyes, and nemes headcloth precisely. The net result is a departure from the abstraction of wooden sculptures that, generally speaking, were hallmarks of statuary in wood and stone during the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms.
Ptah-Soker-Osiris, as a principal deity, was the natural focus of cult worship in ancient Egypt. This is notably the case with the Ritual of the Royal ancestors, performed in every Royal cult complex from the New Kingdom onwards. It comprised a daily presentation of food to the Royal Ancestors (deceased kings), which had previously been removed from the god’s altar at the end of the Daily Temple Ritual in the rite known as the First Reversion of Offerings. At the culmination of the Ritual of the Royal Ancestors, when the Second Reversion of Offerings was performed, the food was removed from the Ancestors’ altar and allotted to the officiating priests. This is attested on a number of papyri (Chester Beatty IX), in the collection of the Chester Beatty and Gallery of Oriental Art, Dublin; and on the walls of several temples, such as the New Kingdom Temple of Sethos I at Abydos in Upper Egypt. The present deity is mentioned on three occasions during the latter ritual, for instance, the second reference reads: ‘Come to me Ptah-Soker-Osiris… oh ranger of the gods, come at your invocation…’
Collectively, the best-known figures of Ptah-Soker-Osiris belong to the collection of the Archaeological Museum in Cracow, Poland, dating from the New Kingdom through to the Roman period. Relevant parallels for the Ptolemaic period include figures from the Princes Czartoryski Foundation (Inv. XI-484, 485).
Collection of the painter Jean Martin Roch (1905-1991), Abbaye Sainte-Marie de Pierredon, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, acquired prior to 1936.
French private collection, Brittany, by descent from the above.
Published: Rouillac, Château de Cheverny, Cheverny, 26ème vente Garden Party, June 13th, 2014, no. 7 illus.