This baboon sculpture is made of grey spotted marble and bronze, and is thought to be from between the 1st and 6th centuries AD. The baboon is an animal associated with the Egyptian god Thoth, the god of knowledge and writing. Thoth is also associated with the moon and he would greet the sun god each morning as the sun rose. As baboons are known for shrieking loudly before dawn, the ancient Egyptians used this imagery in tomb wall decoration as a symbol of resurrection, encouraging the sun to rise.
This piece is typical of objects imported to Rome after the conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. The Romans showed great interest in Egyptian artefacts and many were imported to adorn houses and gardens. The baboon has a Roman appearance and looks to be a Roman made copy of a Late Period Egyptian baboon. However, it is difficult to date as many original Egyptian sculptures have heavy Roman restoration.
It is believed this baboon comes from the Mattei family collection in Rome. It was acquired by the 18th century collector Henry Blundell of Ince Blundell Hall in Lancashire. Henry Blundell built up a collection of nearly 600 marble and bronze sculptures, over 400 of which were from the ancient world.
The baboon sculpture came into the collections of National Museums Liverpool in 1959 as a part of the Ince Blundell collection. Other pieces of classical marble and bronze sculpture from the Ince Blundell collection are on display at the Walker Art Gallery, the Lady Lever Art Gallery and at World Museum, where the greatest number of examples can be found.
The baboon statuette was conserved using cotton wool swabs, to clean the surface with a synperonic mix (a type of detergent in white spirit and water) and then with acetone. The deteriorated resin fills were replaced with new ones and finally the surface was coated with Cosmaloid wax in white spirit.
Accession number 1959.148.57