Isis Nursing Her Child (Isis lactans)
|Object type||tomb equipment|
|Medium, technique||papyrus, paint|
10 x 100 cm
|On view||This artwork isn't on view.|
The purpose of funerary papyri was to equip the deceased with all kinds of necessary information during his or her perilous journey to the netherworld which, it was hoped, would end in rebirth in divine form. Two deities played a particularly important role in these conceptions of the afterlife: the sun-god Re and Osiris, ruler of the netherworld.
The papyrus contains no texts. Nevertheless, the strong semantic link among the four separate scene panels is as cohesive as the grammar of a verbal text. The artist was inspired by the Netherworld Books of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings at Thebes which depict the nocturnal journey of the sun-god.
In the first scene, the knives in the head of the serpent clearly show that the being depicted is Apophis, the defeated enemy of the sun-god Re.. The serpents of the second and third scenes, however, are benevolent, and assist in the rebirth of the sun-god and the deceased. In the third scene the bird-shaped spiritual aspect (ba) of the deceased appears presenting an offering to the sun-god who is depicted in the solar barque (in the form of a wedjat-eye encircled by the sun-disc).
The closing scene shows two scarabs and an ithyphallic divine figure. The locale is the mountain of the eastern horizon; at the moment before sunrise. The artist masterfully represents the last ‘productive moment’ full of tension, condensing all regenerative and creative energies into one point.