Portable shrine

Historical period(s)
Ptolemaic Dynasty, 305-30 BCE
H x W x D: 56.3 x 36.7 x 48.1 cm (22 3/16 x 14 7/16 x 18 15/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


Egypt, hieroglyph, Horus, Ptolemaic Dynasty (305 - 30 BCE), shrine

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 Miscellaneous List, S.I. 36, pg. 32, 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.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


This is a rare example of a portable shrine that was used by Egyptian priests to carry images of deities in various ceremonies within the temple and on voyages outside the temple during specific festivals. Such shrines are depicted in carved reliefs dating to the Ptolemaic period (305-30 B.C.E.), but few actual examples have survived. The deity in the shrine could be represented by a cult statue or by a living or mummified animal.

The shrine is elaborately decorated with painted scenes of deities and hieroglyphic inscriptions. The sides depict the eight gods of creation, which were closely associated with the cult site of the god Thoth at Hermopolis Magna. The ibis-headed god Thoth is himself represented on one door, and the falcon-headed  god Horus on the other.  Both doors also depict a kneeling king, indicating that this shrine was a royal commission.

Published References
  • Ann C. Gunter. A Collector's Journey: Charles Lang Freer and Egypt. Washington and London, 2002. p. 97, figs. 4.3, 4.4.
Collection Area(s)
Ancient Egyptian Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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