- Gallery Text
As god of rebirth, Osiris is depicted in mummy wrappings. He stands with his legs closely together, wearing the characteristic atef crown with side feathers (here broken off), and holding a crook and a flail. These attributes represent royal regalia and reflect his role as primeval king.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
- Other Titles
- Alternate Title: Standing Osiris
- Work Type
- sculpture, statuette
- mid 7th-late 1st century BCE
- Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
- Late Period to Ptolemaic
- 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 and electrum inlays
- Cast, lost-wax process
- 14.2 x 4.5 x 2.5 cm (5 9/16 x 1 3/4 x 1 in.)
- Technical Details
Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 87.86; Sn, 3.28; Pb, 8.19; Zn, 0.021; Fe, 0.03; Ni, 0.04; Ag, 0.06; Sb, 0.1; As, 0.43; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 2 and Tracer
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, lead, tin
Other Elements: iron, antimony, arsenic
Comments: The inlays are gold and electrum.
K. Eremin, January 2014
Technical Observations: The statuette appears to have been stripped of all corrosion products and colored black with a waxy material. Scrape marks from cleaning are visible at many locations. Corrosion pitting and about one hundred small holes, which are porosity in the casting, have been exposed by the stripping process. The break at the ankles seems to be old, probably dating prior to burial or at least excavation.
The statuette is a solid cast, presumably using the lost-wax process. The poorly preserved surfaces of the eyes reveal that they are cast, with no evidence of inlay. The silver bands and teardrops around the neck and gold band in the face appear to be inlay, which is now raised due to loss of the bronze surface. They are c. 0.01 cm thick in areas where the edges are visible. The inlays have been cleaned completely to bright metal.
Henry Lie (submitted 2001)
- Miss Elizabeth Gaskell Norton, Boston, MA and Miss Margaret Norton, Cambridge, MA (by 1920), gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1920.
Note: The Misses Norton were daughters of Charles Elliot Norton (1827-1908).
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Misses Norton
- 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
The subtly modeled figurine boasts inlay of silver and gold hammered into grooves in the broad collar. Osiris wears the White Crown with uraeus and trailing tail up the front. Slight projections on either side of the crown may have held flanking atef feathers. The hands are one above the other. The beard strap, broad collar bands, teardrop pendants, and back clasp display well-preserved inlays that contrast with the dark surface color of the bronze. A slight depression marks the dorsal spinal ridge and the space between the legs. The lower legs are broken at the ankles; the feet are missing.
Osiris was one of the most popular gods of the Egyptian pantheon. Early in Egyptian history he represented a chthonic fertility god that later acquired the royal insignia of the crook and flail. He came to be identified as the ruler of the underworld. The Egyptian ruler, perceived during his lifetime as the incarnation of Horus, became Osiris after death. Over time, Osiris was equated with all deceased individuals and became a symbol of resurrection. The major cult shrine of Osiris was at Abydos in Middle Egypt, where Seti I (c. 1294-1279 BCE) built a magnificent temple in Dynasty 19.
Small bronze figurines representing Osiris show the god wrapped in a form-fitting garment, perhaps denoting a mummified shroud, and carrying the symbols of rulership—the crook and flail—in each hand. Enveloped in his shroud, Osiris’ arms are bound close to his body and his feet and legs stand together. The god is usually depicted wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt, ornamented with a uraeus (cobra) on the front and sometimes flanked by two feathers (the atef crown). In addition, this crown can rest on a set of spiraling ram’s horns that project to either side.
The bronze figurines take two basic forms: seated or standing. Within each group, several subgroups can be distinguished according to the placement of the hands. The hands can be side-by-side without overlapping, the proper right hand above the left in a vertical alignment, or crossed over one another at the wrists. G. Roeder associates the different poses to geographical areas within Egypt: those with hands side-by-side in Middle Egypt, those with hands one above the other in Lower Egypt, and those with the hands crossed over one another in Upper Egypt (1). The position of the hands also appears to correlate with other broad stylistic features. For example, the ridge created by the shroud pulled around the shoulders occurs primarily on figurines in which the hands are arranged one above the other.
1. G. Roeder, Ägyptische Bronzewerke, Pelizaeus-Museum zu Hildesheim, Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichung 3 (Hamburg, 1937) 89; and id., Ägyptische Bronzefiguren, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Mitteilungen aus der Ägyptischen Sammlung 6 (Berlin, 1956) 133. See also M. Wuttmann, L. Coulon, and F. Gombert, “An Assemblage of Bronze Statuettes in a Cult Context: The Temple of ‘Ayn Manâwir,” in Gifts for the Gods: Images from Egyptian Temples, eds. M. Hill and D. Schorsch, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 2007) 167-73, esp. 169-70.
- Publication History
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), p. 83
- Exhibition History
32Q: 3740 Egyptian, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050
- Subjects and Contexts
Google Art Project
- Related Works
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