Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Isis and Horus

Period:
Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
Date:
664–30 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt
Medium:
Cupreous metal
Dimensions:
H. 15.3 cm (6 in.); W. 6 cm (2 3/8 in.); D. 6.6 cm (2 5/8 in.) H. (with tang): 18.3 cm (7 3/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Lily S. Place, 1923
Accession Number:
23.6.9
Not on view
Isis’ name is first attested in the fifth dynasty in the Pyramid texts. She was the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus, and thus was symbolically mother to the pharaoh. In the Late Period, the popularity of this important goddess dramatically increased.
She is nearly always depicted in anthropomorphic form, standing or seated on a throne. This statuette shows the goddess in her most beloved pose, nursing her son Horus (known also as the lactans pose). Other goddesses sometimes nurse Horus or other child gods, but Isis is preeminent among them in this role. She wears the horned crown that by the Late Period she had adopted from the goddess Hathor, as well as the vulture headdress that emphasized the role of goddesses as royal mothers; the markings of the headdress are particularly clear on the back of the head. Armlets and bracelets complete her adornment.
Horus is large in proportion to Isis, and somewhat more prominent than in many comparable images, an impression reinforced by his headgear. He wears the double crown, common for Horus the child (Harpokrates) as a standalone figure, but not as common when he is shown in small scale with Isis. This royal crown symbolizes the union of Lower and Upper Egypt, and highlights Horus’ role as the legitimate ruler of the entire land and his direct association with the king. He also wears an amulet on his chest, an attribute common to child gods but not adult gods.
The large number of Isis statuettes in this particular pose demonstrate some of the qualities for which Isis was most valued in the first millennium BC: her role as a life-giver and protector. These types of statuettes were very common, dedicated not just to Isis cults, but seemingly to many temples and shrines, usually in association with Osiris and the child god Horus.
Collection of Lily S. Place, Cairo. Donated by Lily Place to the museum, 1923.

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