- Gallery Text
Lord of the sky, solar god, and god of kingship -- Horus is among Egypt's oldest deities. The falcon soaring in the sky embodied the god's qualities, and Horus was represented as a falcon or falcon-headed man. As heir to the divine kingship of Egypt, he appears here with the royal uraeus (cobra) and the double crown. The statue illustrates the high standard of bronzeworking and the rising popularity of animal cults in Late Period Egypt (664--332 BCE). The bird's gilt eyes stand out from the dazzling feather coat, bringing to mind the celestial falcon, whose eyes were the sun and the moon. X-radiography has revealed a bird skeleton encased in the bronze. Mummified animals were dedicated by the thousands to the relevant deities. This bronze falcon, then, is not just an image of Horus but the tangible remains of a prayer to the god more than 2,500 years ago.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
- Horus Falcon Wearing Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt with Uraeus
- Work Type
- statue, sculpture
- mid 7th-late 6th century BCE
- Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
- Late Period, Dynasty 26
- Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3740, Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art, Ancient Egypt: Art for Eternity
View this object's location on our interactive map
- Physical Descriptions
- Leaded bronze, gold-alloy inlay around eye
- Cast, lost-wax process
- 37.5 x 9.5 x 24.1 cm (14 3/4 x 3 3/4 x 9 1/2 in.)
- Technical Details
Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 2 and Tracer
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron, silver
Comments: The eye is inlayed with a gold alloy.
K. Eremin, January 2014
Technical Observations: The patina is dark green with brown, black, and red. There are areas of blue present under the base.
The falcon is a lost-wax cast. The base and legs were cast as a unit and inserted 2 cm into the upper legs. There is no evidence of solder, and the lower legs may simply be tightly fitted into the upper legs. The x-radiographs of the falcon indicate it was cast using a direct lost-wax technique, in which the wax would have been modeled over a prepared core, resulting in walls that are thick but not uniformly so. Further evidence of this is the lack of wax manipulation marks at any interior surfaces. X-radiographs also show that a number of bones are stored in the interior. These were introduced after removal of core material through a rectangular opening (3.8 x 5.6 cm) at the bottom of the tail, which is now covered with a bronze patch (5.1 x 6.7 cm). Remains of what appears to be light buff-colored core material are visible in a hole (7 x 7 mm) at the front of the headdress. A rectangular patch (12 x 5 mm) on the left side of the headdress is slightly recessed. In the x-radiographs, the patch appears to be about 4 mm thick. Core pin holes or intact core pins appear to be present. A dark area (1 x 4 mm) visible in the x-radiograph on the right side of the lower headdress corresponds to an area of red corrosion products on the surface of the bronze. A 2-mm black spot in the x-radiograph at the wings also appears to be related to a core pin, although no evidence is visible on the surface. The x-radiographs also reveal excess metal inside the head where a flash line (2 to 3 mm wide) caused by a crack in the core runs down the back of the head and from the head down the chest to the legs.
The incised lines (0.5 mm wide) in many areas are quite fluid, but under magnification they appear to have been traced and punched in the bronze during cold working. Incised lines depicting the feathers are 0.4 to 0.6 mm in width. Gold foil decoration at the eyes is c. 0.1 to 0.2 mm thick. It is decorated with fine punch marks at 0.5 mm intervals.
Henry Lie (submitted 2000, updated 2012)
- Eddé collection, Alexandria, Egypt. [J. Hirsch, Ars Classica, Geneva, November/December 1928,] sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York, NY, (1928-1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This large, beautifully cast, and richly detailed falcon wears the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The royal uraeus fronts the Red Crown, while a small hole at the front of the White Crown indicates the position of the spiral, now lost and which would have been a separate piece. Around the neck hangs an engraved depiction of an amulet with two tear-shaped pendants suspended from it. Engraving also details the elaborately patterned feathers and typical facial markings. Thin gold foil surrounds the slightly raised eyes. The thick heavy ridges of the legs contrast with the delicacy of the feathering, uniting the power and majesty of the falcon. The feet were cast separately and then attached to the rest of the body. The intricacy of the original wax model is evident in the powerfully curved talons that leave open spaces between the feet and the thick base. X-radiographs reveal a compartment in the belly, in which small, hollow bones, probably of a falcon, were deposited. The rectangular opening into the cavity remains sealed with a bronze plate (1).
The soaring flight and predatory character of the falcon linked the mighty raptor to the god of the living king, Horus, early in the pharaonic tradition. The living king of Egypt was identified as an earthly Horus, and from the late Predynastic Period (c. 3100 BCE), the king bore a special royal “Horus name.” The falcon, as the sacred animal of Horus, came to symbolize divine kingship, as the king was the earthly representation of Horus. The common appearance of the Double Crown and uraeus on bronze figurines of falcons reinforces this royal connection. The falcon was also associated with the sky, with its eyes representing the sun and the moon and its large wings outspread to protect the earth below. Later, the falcon became associated with the sun god Re, bearing a sun disc on its head (known as Re-Harakhty). Other gods also had falcons as their sacred animals, such as Montu the god of war, who is distinguished by a double-plume headdress.
As with so many animals associated with the divine realm, during the later periods the falcon became the focus of mummification, burial, and votive offerings. The numerous bronze falcon statuettes are characterized by their upright, yet resting, stance with wings folded at the side. They range in size from small ornaments to large, freestanding figures. Many of the larger examples, such as 1943.1118, were hollow-cast with an inner compartment in which an actual bird could be deposited. Hundreds of thousands of mummified falcons were buried in extensive catacombs at sacred sites throughout Egypt. The Greco-Roman period temples at Philae and Edfu represent the final flourishing of the cult. The more elaborately decorated figures include engraved and inlaid detailing of the feathers and facial markings. The facial patterning, seen on 1943.1118, 1957.165, and 1957.166, follows the conventions established early on with the feathered eye and moustachial stripe. Although the representation of falcons remained constant throughout Egyptian history, it is not zoologically accurate and cannot be identified with any particular species (2).
1. Compare Brooklyn Art Museum, inv. no. 05.394, a Horus Falcon-Form Coffin, which has lost its sealing plate.
2. See discussion of the falcon in Egyptian art and Egypt in P. F. Houlihan, The Birds of Ancient Egypt, The Natural History of Egypt 1 (Warminster, 1986) 46-48. See also R. Bailleul-LeSuer, ed., Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, exh. cat., Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (Chicago, 2012) 178-88, which includes discussion of modern scientific analysis of mummified bird remains from Egypt.
- Publication History
George M. A. Hanfmann and Benjamin Rowland, Jr., "Ancient Art at the Fogg Museum", Archaeology, Vol. 7, No. 3, 130-37.
Dows Dunham, "The Egyptian Antiquities", Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum (1943), Vol. 10, No. 2, 40-43, p. 41, fig. 4.
Madeleine S. Miller and J. Lane Miller, "Hawk", Harper's Bible Dictionary, Harper and Brothers Publishers (New York, NY, 1952), 246-47, p. 247, fig. 176.
Dorothy W. Gillerman, ed., Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1969), p. 256 (checklist).
Theodora Ward, Men and Angels, Viking Press (New York, NY, 1969), facing p. 82, ill.
Francesca Bewer, A Laboratory for Art: Harvard's Fogg Museum and the Emergence of Conservation in America, 1900-1950, Harvard Art Museum and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA, 2010), p. 162.
Henry Lie and Francesca Bewer, "Ex Aere Factum: Technical Notes on Ancient Bronzes", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 38-63, pp. 48-49 and 61, fig. 2.6.a-b.
Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), pp. 6, 48-49, 61, 83, fig. 2.6a-b
- Exhibition History
32Q: 3740 Egyptian, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050
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