Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Harpokrates is the Greek name for Horus the Child, the son of Isis and Osiris. Here he is depicted as a chubby boy with a sidelock and (lost) finger to his mouth. The pose suggests that the figure may once have sat on the lap of a statuette of his mother.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1920.44.303
Title
Harpokrates (Horus the Child)
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Seated Harpokrates
Classification
Sculpture
Work Type
sculpture, statuette
Date
late 8th-late 6th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Period
Late Period
Culture
Egyptian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/304042
Location
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
Medium
Leaded bronze
Technique
Cast, lost-wax process
Dimensions
19.2 x 6.1 x 8.6 cm (7 9/16 x 2 3/8 x 3 3/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 85.26; Sn, 5.04; Pb, 8.97; Zn, 0.021; Fe, 0.03; Ni, 0.04; Ag, 0.07; Sb, 0.12; As, 0.46; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001

J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron, silver, antimony

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: Most of the statuette’s surface is rough, consisting of green corrosion products with spots of red. Where these corrosion products have been removed, the surface is smooth and brown, and preserves some decorative detail. The bottom edge of the left hand is mineralized, and the tips of the fingers have been broken and lost. The deep gash at the back of the proper left leg probably dates to the time of excavation.

The statuette is a solid cast and is very heavy. Decorative detail in the counterpoise is in poor condition but appears to have been cold worked in the metal using punches. The line of the hair or skullcap at the forehead and the details in the eyes also appear to have been enhanced by working directly in the metal. Black inlay surviving at the upper eyelid of the left eye appears to be silver. The side-lock has a similar patina to the main casting. It has separated slightly from the head, revealing a brittle black material related to its attachment. A slight dislocation in the plane of the surface at the back of the right shoulder could be a flaw caused by a crack and shifting of the investment material during casting.


Henry Lie (submitted 2001)

Provenance
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
1920
Object Number
1920.44.303
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The relatively large size of this seated Harpokrates suggests that is was produced as an independent piece rather than as part of an enthroned Isis group (1). The side-lock was made separately and mortised into a hole in the side of the head. Under a heavy layer of accretions, the fine workmanship of the piece defines a fully modeled, chubby youth with a well-rounded face and smooth skull. The presence of a broad collar can be deduced from the incised counterpoise that is visible on the back where the accretions are absent. It probably dates relatively early, to the seventh or sixth century BCE (2).

Harpokrates represents the god Horus as a child, shown nude with the side-lock of youth on the right side of his head and his right index finger to his mouth. As the son of Osiris and Isis, he gained immense popularity during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, during which time the production of bronze figurines of Harpokrates flourished. He often wears the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, a feature common in first millennium Egypt when youthful deities acquired kingly attributes. Another characteristic headdress is the nemes head cloth, although frequently the boy is depicted with either a shaven head or a tight-fitting skull cap. His nude body typically retains the roundness of flesh associated with young boys. The child-god could be represented seated, striding, or squatting. When seated, he assumes a semi-reclining position derived from that of a baby on its mother’s lap; many of the smaller examples of these figurines may originally have belonged with a seated Isis figure (3). Suspension loops for attachment as a pendant indicate an amuletic connection that may have been particularly associated with young children.

NOTES:

1. Compare similar large Harpokrates statuettes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. nos. 15.43.3 and 64.77.

2. J. Baines, pers. comm. Compare a striding figure of Psamtik II as a youth with similar styling published in J. F. Aubert and L. Aubert, eds., Bronzes et or Egyptiens (Paris, 2001) 266, pl. 22, dated to Dynasty 26.

3. G. Roeder, Ägyptische Bronzefiguren, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Mitteilungen aus der Ägyptischen Sammlung 6 (Berlin, 1956) 13-17, 104-105, pls. 15-22. Although in this case, the seated figure was part of an independent group.


Marian Feldman

Exhibition History

32Q: 3740 Egyptian, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu