Inventory Number: 37393
The statue represents the “genius” of Buto, a personification of the ancient kings of the city of Buto, the modern Tell el-Fara’ in the Nile Delta. This “genius”, also called “soul (ba) of Buto” was a powerful spirit who helped the living king to rule the country and continued to serve the king in his afterlife once he died. According to Egyptian mythology, Buto reigned over Lower Egypt before the country was reunited into a single kingdom at the beginning of the IV millennium BC. The “genius” Buto originates with the falconheaded deity who represents the ancient kings of Lower Egypt. These kings reigned before the beginning of the dynasties. Buto’s counterpart, Nekhen, was jack-el-headed, and represented the predynastic kings of Upper Egypt and the Nile Valley. Traditional Egyptian iconography depicts these deities on their knees. This is the characteristic position of joy, or Henu, the act of greeting the sunrise. They are also frequently shown in midst of ritual celebration.
Bronzes similar to this statue appear infrequently in museum collections, making this piece quite rare. This gem of the Vatican Collection was donated to the Vatican in 1951 by Mrs. Edda Grassi, widow of Carlo Grassi the prolific collector of Pharaonic, Hellenistic, and Roman antiquities.