TITLE: God Osiris
CULTURE: Ancient Egypt
PERIOD: Late Period, 664 - 323 BC
MATERIAL: Bronze (hollow casting) and limestone
DIMENSIONS: Height 28.5 cm.
PRICE: 26,000 Euros
PROVENANCE: Private collection Mr. Z.N., Asia, acquired in the 1980s.
CONDITION: In a good state of preservation apart from the loss of the inset stones or glass from the crown and the sceptre. Restored the inlay in the left eye. Some traces of gold leaf remain around the neck.
This bronze figure represents the god Osiris. It is notable for its size as it is much bigger than most of the usual effigies of this god. He is seated and wrapped in a shroud which allows the contours of his slim and elegant body to be clearly made out. The crossed arms over the chest stand out. He holds the flail, the nekhekha sceptre, in his left hand and in his right, the heka sceptre in the form of a crook.
He wears the representative headdress, the atef crown, on his head. This is made up of the White Crown of Upper Egypt, but with the addition on either side of a curling ostrich feather. A serpent snakes down the front of the crown. Just above the forehead we find the uraeus, and right at the top of the crown is the solar disk between two cobras. Both the disk and the sceptres would have been completely set with stones or glass, but these are today missing from the piece. The chin is adorned with a long plaited false beard which ends in an outward curl. His chest is decorated with a great broad collar made up of different types of bead shapes.
Originally, the figure of Osiris was linked to the fecundity of the Egyptian soil, the renewal of vegetation and the world of shepherds, as evidenced by the hekat sceptre (which reproduces the shepherds’ crook). He embodied the fertile land and the arable fields, and became therefore the guardian of the order of the universe and the cycles of nature. But the most famous myth concerning him is the one in connection with his death, known through many versions: the son of Geb (the earth) and Nut (the sky) and the husband of Isis, the god primarily was a pharaoh. With Isis, they were a pair of royal benefactors who taught mankind farming and fishing (Osiris), weaving and medicine (Isis). Jealous of the sovereign, his brother Seth assassinated him, cut up his body and disposed of the pieces in the Nile. However, Isis, his wife and faithful widow, found and reassembled the body of her husband and, with the help of her sister, Nephtys, and of Anubis, she embalmed the corpse. After breathing life into him for a short instant, Isis was impregnated by Osiris: this union resulted in the birth of Horus, who, following in the footsteps of his father, became Pharaoh. And so, after having survived the ordeal of death, Osiris triumphed thanks to the magic of his wife and became the ruler of the underworld, which contained the seeds of life and, at the same time, was the protector of the deceased, to whom he would promise life after death.
These two closely related characteristics linking the god of fecundity and the funerary divinity were certainly the basis for the success Osiris enjoyed in the Egyptian world: from the New Kingdom on, and especially during the entire 1st millennium BC, statuettes of Osiris were among the most important funerary offerings.