*IMPORTANT GNOSTIC RELIEF
74 x 89.5 x 10 cm
Roman art, 3rd century
Former collection from Southern Germany in the 1980s
Anonymous sale; Gorny Mosch, Munich, 22 June 2005, lot 99
Ex Christie's NY sale, 12/16/2010, lot 197 ($200,000 - $300,000)
Collection of the Gandur Foundation for Art, Switzerland
MELA. C., MÖRI. F., Alexandria the Divine, vol.II, fig. 143
For a similar iconography
Statuette of Anubis anguiped, National Museum of Warsaw, Inv. nr 148140 MNW (fig.1)
Statue of Hermanubis in marble, 2nd century, Musei Vaticani, Museo Gregoriano egizio (fig.2)
Intaglio on jasper representing Abraxas, Roman art 1st-3rd century, Cabinet des Médailles, Paris, Schlumberger.318, (fig.3)
Fragment of a bas-relief of Vyala Yaksha, 1st century B.C., Curzon Museum of Archaeology, Mathura, ACCN 42-2944 (fig.4)
Carved in high relief, this scene presents a composite deity inside an aedicula (chapel) shaped architecture, whose pediment is decorated in the center with a hollowed shell.
It presents a jackal's head, a human body and two snakes as legs. It is in fact an unusual form of Hermanubis in Abraxas. A rare and particularly well executed hybridity. The scales of the snakes are finely marked, their heads rising in the space left free on either side.
The torso and arms of the figure are those of a virile man, and the head is that of a dog or wolf turned to the left (identified as that of the Egyptian god Anubis with a jackal head).
By way of clothing, this half-human, half-animal being wears an exomid, a working garment, made of the skin of an animal with split hooves, tied on the left shoulder to free the right arm. In his right hand, he holds a key with clearly marked teeth, and in his left hand, a caduceus, two poppies and two palms, while from his head protrude two ears of wheat.
On a first offering table on the left of the image, a severed ram's head is placed. A second offering table on the right, with one foot, a lion's head and paw, is placed on the left side of the first table, on which a cake is placed. Depicted on a small scale, a bearded man stands in a supplicant attitude with one knee on the ground in front of the table, presenting the cake and raising his head towards the hybrid god.
The precise identification of this syncretic deity seems unclear at first glance. It must be mainly the association of two deities; Hermanubis, association between the Greek and Egyptian psychopomp gods Hermes and Anubis (chthonic attributes such as the caduceus, the key, poppies and ears of corn) (fig.1-2). And Abraxas, frequently found on Gnostic intaglios, double anguiped but generally represented with a rooster's head and a whip in his hand (fig.3).
This representation thus associates two psychopomp deities in the form of a single Hermanubis (which appeared in the Ptolemaic period) and Abraxas, which by virtue of its anatomy refers to the forces of evil that spring from the earth.
Moreover, the head of a ram on the left-hand table, very singular, recalls a specific offering to the wolf, especially since the inhabitants of Lycopolis were among the consumers of this animal's meat (PLUTARCH, Isis and Osiris, 72). As for the animal skin, which serves as the deity's exomid, it could recall the donkey's skin, an impure animal with affinities to Typhon (ibid., 30), proof that evil and sterility would be defeated here by Anubis, son of Osiris and Isis, while the ears of life and rebirth spring from the god's head. Thus, the speaker on the right of the monument implores a protective deity whose terrifying character is accentuated. This limestone monument, probably from Alexandria, is likely to have come from one of the necropolises of Alexandria that were frequented in the third century AD.
A Roman Alexandrian limestone gnostic relief sculpted in high relief depicting Hermanubis-Abraxas in an offering scene. 3rd century A.D.
Sculpted in high relief, this scene presents inside an architecture in the form of an aedicula (chapel), the pediment of which is decorated in the center with a hollowed-out shell, a deity in a composite form.
It presents a jackal's head, a human body and, as legs, two snakes. This is actually an unusual form of Hermanubis en Abraxas. A rare and particularly well-executed hybridity. The scales of the snakes are finely marked, their heads rising in the space left free on either side.
The figure's torso and arms are those of a virile man, and the head is that of a dog or wolf facing left (which will be identified as that of the Egyptian god Anubis with the head of a jackal).
By way of clothing, this half-human, half-animal being wears an exomide, a work garment, formed from the skin of an animal with cloven hooves, tied on the left shoulder to release the right arm. With his right hand,