The God Osiris
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.
ca. 1075-656 B.C.E.
Dynasty 21 to Dynasty 25
Third Intermediate Period
5 11/16 x 1 7/16 x 1 3/16 in. (14.4 x 3.6 x 3 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
One hollow cast bronze figure of Osiris. The god is shown mummiform, standing and holding the crook and flail. He wears a crown composed of a white crown, topped by a sun disk, flanked by two ostrich feathers, and fronted by a uraeus. A tang descends from the rear of the feet and a diagonal cross bar runs from the bottom of the tang to the front of the feet (from the side it resembles a standard).
Condition: Brown/black patina overall. Eyes inlaid with yellow substance (right only extant). On buttocks curious circular area where disease has been excavated and covered with shellac. Left elbow much pitted and chipped. Several small casting flaws left front foot of figure as well as several chips. Core revealed.
The God Osiris, ca. 1075-656 B.C.E. Bronze, 5 11/16 x 1 7/16 x 1 3/16 in. (14.4 x 3.6 x 3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.565E. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, CUR.37.565E_NegA_print_bw.jpg)
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