Isis Nursing Horus

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  • Topic: Isis, Hathor, Osiris
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  • Published : October 10, 2009
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Isis Nursing Horus
1. Introduction
As I entered the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, I began viewing the artworks, and it was there that I noticed a beautiful sculpture. Right away it captured my attention. It was a statute of Isis sitting with Horus on her lap. It was called Isis Nursing Horus. First, I liked the subject matter. It was very feminine, but also showed what a strong woman Isis was. There were other sculptures that I saw while viewing which were much more detailed and painted. But this sculpture was my favarite. As Plutarch writes of Isis: "she is both wise and a lover of wisdom; as her name appears to denote that, more than any other, knowing and knowledge belong to her"( Plutarch). The name of sculpture and its magnificence inspired me to choose this sculpture as a subject of my research paper. 2. Vital Statistics

Title: Isis Nursing Horus
Period: Ptolemaic Period – Ptolemaic (332-30 BC)
Dimensions: H:21.4 cm
Properties: Bronze
Where used: Temple MuseumLocation:Rosicrucian Egyptain, San Jose

Figure 1: Isis Nursing Horus (Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium)

3. Subject Matter: Composition, Shape, Space, Surface Texture & Color
This royal portraiture of Isis, a three dimensional volume statuette, is made of bronze. She seats on a throne which is the official chair or seat upon which a monarch is seated on state or ceremonial occasions. Thrones have been the symbol of deities since ancient times and have ever since been associated with royal power. This artwork consists of two intersecting planes: the mother and the child. The goddess, Isis, is wearing an unadorned, tight-fitting robe and is holding Horus's head in her right hand, while offering her left breast with the other.

Exquisitely portrayed, the queen’s shape is very delicate. The young god seems to be welded to her knees. With his broken arms against his body, his open palm on his knees, and legs held together, he lacks the natural softness of a child and he is already tall and muscular. Indeed, the pose in this high hieratic composition is fairly unrealistic. The sculpture placed the king at a right angle to his mother, therefore provides two “frontal” views; the queen facing forward, the king to the side. “In another break with convention, he freed the queen’s arms and legs from the stone block of throne, giving her figure greater independence” (Stokstad, 66).

It seems Isis is wearing a necklace with gold inlays, a wig and a crown topped with a solar disk placed between two cow horns. Her crown atop the wig is the symbol of the mother-goddess. The white of Isis and Horus's eyes are gold-plated, and the pupils have been darkened. Sporadic traces of gold on the surface reveal that it was once completely gilded. (Shaw, Ian, and Paul Nicholson, 91)

Isis Nursing Horus statuette is made of bronze. In any Egyptain museum, visitors will be immediately struck by the dense assembly of sculptures in granite, quartzite and wood, often with extensive traces of original polychromy. But Bronzes appear less prominently and changing color over time, this might distort our understanding of Egyptian sculptures. Ancient Egyptain bronze sculptures were mostly made of copper with some added lead or silver, which is not the usual alloy 10% tin and 90% copper. Therefore, when the bronzes were buried, their surface changed in appearance relating to the chemical nature of the alloys and earth, as in the case of Isis Nursing Horus in its present condition. Black bronze’, known to Egyptians as hmty-km, was, as the American scholar and curator John Cooney discovered, created by adding gold. Although this sculpture has suffered and lost in some parts, in the course of history, I think it is a powerful work and Isis’s torso gives her figure a readable linearity. (Goudchaux)

4. Iconography; Cultural History

Isis: Assimilation of Hathor

Isis shows many of the attributes of Hathor, a very prehistoric deity, dating to predynastic times. A...
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