Baboons (Papio Hamadryas and Papio Cynocephalus) were seen by the ancient Egyptians as nocturnal creatures, associated with the moon-god Thoth, the god of knowledge and writing. The noise they create just before daybreak was perceived as a fanfare to the sunrise, indicating foreknowledge of its return. As such, they were also allied to the the sun god, Ra. Thoth, and by association the baboon, was praised as the inventor of the written word and a purveyor of truth. Many of his worshippers hoped that he might smite down those enemies who wished to lie to them and do them harm.
ProvenanceGustave Mustaki, Alexandria, Egypt; exported from Egypt to the UK c.1950
Elsa MacLellan, UK; by descent from the above
Private collection, London, UK; by descent from the above
Private collection, Rome, Italy; acquired 2012
Ancient sculpture in wood is comparatively rare, for examples of Thoth as a baboon, compare Maria Morgensen, La Glyptothèque Ny Carlsberg; La Collection Égyptienne (Copenhagen, 1930), pl.LVI, nos.420-422, pp.58-59