Curiously enough, the religion of ancient Egypt was based not on theological principles but on gods. They were connected to the elements, nature, or even animals. This explains why animals had become a common subject in the art created by this civilization. Portrayed as a jackal-headed creature, the god of embalming and mummification, Anubis is a vivid example of how closely religion and imagination could be intertwined and how Egyptians used animals as symbols to convey qualities and attributes to their gods. The given essay focuses on the statuette of Anubis dated 332-30 B.C. and discusses its subject matter, style, and function.
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The statuette is a representation of the Egyptian god of the dead Anubis, who seems to be greeting someone as his arms are outstretched with hands in an open position. The mission of Anubis was to guide the souls of the recently dead people through the underworld (also known as Duat). Anubis weighed the heart of the deceased for his father Osiris and was responsible for guarding the canopic jar with the stomach (Lazzari and Schlesier 220).
The type of animal that is represented is a dog. The given work of art can be considered a depiction of a ‘human hybrid’ rather than a real animal. Anubis has a human body with a long wig and a black jackal head (see fig. 1). The black color of the god’s head indicates that he is connected to the afterlife and death.
Some parts of the statuette are realistic (a jackal head and a man’s body), while the whole piece of art seems rather idealistic. Anubis is wearing the garment, and there are four gold bands on his upper arms and wrists. His blue wig is outlined in gold paint, which also highlights his mouth and eyes. The statuette mainly has vertical lines that communicate a sense of height and diagonal lines that signify movement.
The figure has a definite shape and is irregular and asymmetrical. The height and width of Anubis are 42.3 and 10.1 cm, respectively (“Statuette of Anubis”). The basis on which the god stands has the form of a parallelepiped. Since this is a statuette, its space is three-dimensional, but even its illustration has a three-dimensional effect. The surface texture of the statuette is rather smooth because it is made of wood that was plastered and painted. This art object is masterfully carved and color-coded, especially the clothing of Anubis that has a rhombus pattern.
Every piece of art of ancient Egypt served a particular purpose, in particular, a religious one. This statuette was used during funeral processions and further placed in graves and tombs, which Anubis was believed to protect (Scarre and Fagan 98). It is also possible that this work of art could have been utilized by embalmers to assist them in preparing the deceased people to make the journey in the underworld.
In summary, ancient Egyptians extensively employed imagery in order to express their spiritual and religious beliefs. The personification of animals is built into the cultural revolution of this civilization and its dogmatic practices, thus creating a striking fluidity between a human, an animal, and a god. The god of the dead Anubis represents natural and supernatural things that surrounded Egyptians and helped them shape their views about the world.
Lazzari, Margaret, and Dona Schlesier. Exploring Art: A Global, Thematic Approach. 5th ed., Cengage Learning, 2016.
Scarre, Chris, and Brian Fagan. Ancient Civilizations. 4th ed., Routledge, 2016.
“Statuette of Anubis.” The MET. Web.