The Goddess Hathor
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
The complex nature of Egyptian deities is often indicated by their attributes. Osiris’s tightly wrapped mummy shroud and his crook and flail (symbolizing kingship) point to the legend of Osiris’s murder, mummification, and subsequent resurrection as the ruler of the underworld. The cobra held by his wife, Isis, represents the magic that revived her husband and guarded their son, Horus. As the rightful heir to Osiris’s throne and the embodiment of kingship, the falcon-god Horus wears the Double Crown.
Animals can also reveal divine qualities. The cow or cow-human forms of Hathor refer to her role as provider of milk to Horus and to young kings of Egypt. Bastet, another benevolent female deity, appears as a cat or cat-headed woman, carrying a basket and sistrum.
Certain deities, including Neith, Ptah, Nefertem, and Imhotep, were portrayed in human form. The ancient protectress Neith, associated with war and hunting, wears the flat-topped Red Crown of Lower Egypt. The Memphite creator-god Ptah holds a staff with hieroglyphs for life and permanence. Ptah’s son, Nefertem, a lotus on his head (symbolizing rebirth), defends Maat with his scimitar. Imhotep, the deified architect of Djoser’s pyramid, shares Ptah’s close-fitting cap, and the papyrus on his lap emphasizes wisdom and creativity.
Bronze, gold, electrum
ca. 664-30 B.C.E. or later
Late Period to Ptolemaic Period
7 1/2 x 1 7/16 x 2 7/8 in. (19 x 3.7 x 7.3 cm)
mount (display dimensions): 10 x 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 in. (25.4 x 6.4 x 8.9 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Striding bronze figure of a cow-headed goddess, probably Hathor. The figure strides upon an inscribed rectangular base. She wears a lappet wig crowned with horns, sun-disk, uraeus on sun disk, and tall feathers (only partly preserved) behind disk. The figure's eyes are inlaid with gold and electrum.
Condition: Upper part of feathers and tip of horns missing. Solid cast. Copper brown patina over whole piece. Base chipped and dented.
The Goddess Hathor, ca. 664-30 B.C.E. or later. Bronze, gold, electrum, 7 1/2 x 1 7/16 x 2 7/8 in. (19 x 3.7 x 7.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.356E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 37.356E_front_PS1.jpg)
front, 37.356E_front_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
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