Figure of Isis-Aphrodite

Period: Roman Period

Date: 2nd century A.D.

Geography: From Egypt

Medium: Terracotta painted brown, black, red, and pink on white engobe

Dimensions: h. 49.5 cm (19 1/2 in); w. 12.5 cm (4 15/16 in)

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1991

Accession Number: 1991.76


This tall, sensuously modeled and delicately painted terracotta figurine represents Aphrodite-Isis, a goddess combining attributes of the Egyptian goddesses Isis and Hathor and the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Although otherwise nude, she wears elaborate accessories, including an exaggerated calathos (the crown of Egyptian Greco-Roman deities) emblazoned with the sun disk and horns of Isis. Her long corkscrew curls are arranged in the semblance of a traditional Egyptian hairstyle.

Similarly garbed figures of goddesses and female figures associated with marriage, conception, and childbirth are found throughout the Greco-Roman world. The Egyptian version is distinguished by its compressed, frontal, and rather rigidly upright pose, and by its occurrence in burials. These features relate to pharaonic prototypes whose efficacy seems to have extended into the afterlife for women and men alike.

After being formed in a two-part mold, the front of the hollow figurine was dipped in a white engobe (slip), then painted with a white base coat and detailed in stark black, yellow, and a range of reds and pinks, even to an elusive blush over the cheeks.