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AN EGYPTIAN GREYWACKE ISIS
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About the item

AN EGYPTIAN GREYWACKE ISIS\nLATE PERIOD, DYNASTY XXVI, CIRCA 664-525 B.C.\nDepicted seated on a throne with legs together, her hands resting on her lap, an ankh-cross in her right hand, wearing a tripartite wig, overlaid by a vulture headdress holding shen-signs in each of its talons, and a frontal uraeus, the details finely incised, surmounted by a modius of uraei and a sun-disc between cow's horns, a broad collar with a row of pendant beads between the lappets of the wig, wearing a tightly fitted ankle-length halter-neck dress, her face with almond-shaped eyes, the rims raised and with extended cosmetic lines, the eyebrows in raised relief arching above, with a delicate straight nose and full lips pulled into a slight smile, the filtrum defined, with small rounded chin and large well-modeled ears, inscribed on four sides of the throne with a magical incantation for the Royal Acquaintance, Ptahirdis, True of voice, son of Wepwawetemsaf, begotten of Merptahites\n28¾ in. (73 cm.) high
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notes

The Royal Acquaintance Ptahirdis, son of Wepwawetemsaf is also known from a fragmentary theophorous statue, in basalt, formerly in the Northampton Collection. His tomb in Giza is recorded in Porter and Moss, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Paintings, III. Memphis, part 1, p. 291, situated just North-West of the Sphinx.

The above Isis is stylistically very close to another famous statue in the Cairo Museum (cf. M Saleh, The Official Catalogue of the Cairo Museum, Mainz, 1987, no. 250), which came from the tomb of Psamtek in Saqqara and dates to the late Dynasty XXVI. It was used as a healing statue whereby those visiting the accessible courtyard of the tomb would pour water over the magical texts to be healed and to protect themselves from venomous animals. In a more portable format, cippi stelae served the same purpose. The present statue might therefore have been placed in an open space accessible to anyone who needed to call upon the goddess's magic, perhaps in either the temple of Isis at Giza or the open courtyard of Ptahirdis's funerary complex.

Isis is the most iconic goddess of Egypt. Her cult goes back to the early days of the Egyptian civilization and spread throughout the Mediterranean during the Roman period. She personifies the mother par excellence, protectoress and magician, above all caring for her family. In the Osiris myth, she looks for her brother and husband Osiris throughout Egypt after he was kidnapped by the jealous Seth and his body parts scattered along the Nile. She used the secrets of mummification on Osiris's body for the first time to preserve his body for eternity, but needed an heir to succeed him. She transformed into a bird, flapped her wings above him to reanimate the god and became pregnant with Horus. She then hid in the marshes of Khemmis in the Delta to prepare the birth and protect her son from the attacks of Seth using her powerful spells and magic. This statue gives her voice:

"I am Isis, mistress of Khemmis, efficient of magical utterances in secret places. Geb has given to me his magical power to act as protection for Horus thereby. I know how to seal the mouth of every serpent, how to turn back every lion with [my] power on the desert, to act against crocodiles in the river, every reptile which bites in their holes. I shall repel the venom [...] I shall give air to the throat with the magical power".

title

AN EGYPTIAN GREYWACKE ISIS

notice

Please note that a statue of Osiris bearing the same dedicant name Ptahirdis is at the MFA Boston (accession no. 29.1131) and is likely to come from the same workshop.

prelot

THE PROPERTY OF A FRENCH NOBLE FAMILY

keywords

Ancient Art & Antiquities

department

Ancient Art & Antiquities

dimensions

28¾ in. (73 cm.) high

provenance

Acquired by a French diplomat in Alexandria in the 1840s; thence by descent to the present owner.


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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