Never has a living beast been more cherished than Apis. A long fluvial procession on the Nile ensured his transfer from the meadow to the sanctuary. At the season of mating the most beautiful heifer was presented to him. His death was celebrated in a mourning of 70 days as such a duration was needed to embalm him.
Apis personalized sexual potency and fertility and his entire career was festive. In Egyptian imagery he shared with Pharaoh the symbol of the protective cobra standing on his forehead. He also carried the sun disc between the withers and the top of the horns.
The statues of the Apis bull were realistic to display at best the attributes of his canon. On April 18 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 54 a 58 cm long Apis in granodiorite, the superb Egyptian black stone. Its lustrous polish is typical of the pre-Ptolemy nationalist period when the capital had been returned to Memphis.
Apis is sculpted in the round. He has between the legs a stele decorated on both sides with a papyrus pattern whose significance was mainly decorative since the adult animal no longer went into the meadows. The hair system is incised with the necessary details including strand, eyebrows, mane and tail. He keeps his sun and cobra but in the photos of the catalog the hooves seem missing.
Apis was unique in Memphis but had imitators in other cities especially when the country was politically divided. In the absence of an inscription on the statuette it is impossible to conclude whether the bull at Christie's is an Apis, a Buchis from the region of Thebes or a Mnevis from Heliopolis.