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Figure of Shu

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

The Egyptians represented the relationship between sky and earth by showing the body of Nut rising in a majestic arc over the figure of the dark, fecund earth god, Geb. To prevent them from further sexual union after the birth of Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys, they were separated eternally by Shu, the god of air.

Shu represented the eternal patterns of change the ancient Egyptians associated with cyclical time (neheh). His sister, the leonine goddess Tefnut, was related to the eternal sameness of linear time (djet).

Like most amulets of Shu, this example shows the god kneeling with his arms upraised. The gesture symbolizes Shu's eternal role as the god who separates the deities Nut (sky) and Geb (earth).

MEDIUM Faience
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • DATES ca. 1070.–653 B.C.E.
    PERIOD Late Period
    DIMENSIONS 1 3/4 × 7/8 × 3/4 in. (4.5 × 2.2 × 1.9 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Green glazed faience amulet representing the god Shu kneeling on his right knee with his arms raised at his sides as if to support the heavens. The god wears a pleated kilt, long beard, and long striated wig. A sun-disk rests upon his head. The back pillar, which reaches up to the disk, has sides which curve in from the bottom and then curve outwards again at the top. There is no modeling of the rear of the arms. The plinth is straight–edged in front and rounded in the rear. Condition: Good.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Figure of Shu, ca. 1070.–653 B.C.E. Faience, 1 3/4 × 7/8 × 3/4 in. (4.5 × 2.2 × 1.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.954E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.37.954E_wwgA-1.jpg)
    IMAGE installation, West Wing gallery A-1 installation, CUR.37.954E_wwgA-1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2005
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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