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Isis Nursing Her Child (Isis lactans)

Date 7th-6th centuries B.C.
Object type sculpture
Medium, technique Bronze, gilded eyes
Dimensions

height: 15 cm

Inventory number 63.1-E
Collection Egyptian Art
On view This artwork is on view at the permanent exhibition

Divine triads of various temples (formed by a male divinity, his female consort and their divine child), which were considered by that time as cosmic archetypal patterns of the royal family, gained more and more significance during the second half of the first millennium BC. Osiris, Isis, and Horus formed the most important divine triad. The mythical model of the divine child was the infant Horus (Hor-pa-khered, in the Greek form, Harpokrates). The iconography of Isis seated on her throne while suckling her son was created in the Third Intermediate Period and became increasingly popular from the second part of the first millennium BC throughout Egypt and later also beyond its boundaries.
The image of the nursing Isis evokes an episode of the myth of Osiris. After Seth murdered the god and Isis revived him with her magical powers, Osiris became the ruler of the realm of the dead. Then Seth turned against the infant Horus, the heir to the earthly throne of Osiris. Isis hid the vulnerable newborn from Seth’s revenge in the heart of marshland of Khemmis (in the vicinity of Buto in the Delta). Thus the goddess nursing her child became the icon of a careful and protective divine mother whom women solicited to protect their own infants.
The votive statuette presented here displays the goddess as wearing a close-fitting dress, a tripartite wig and her usual headdress. She supports the child in her lap with her left arm, while giving her left breast to the baby with her right hand. The symbolism of the divine child was associated with fertility, abundance and the smooth succession of royal power. The traditional attributes of his iconography can be associated with the same symbolism: the well-nourished naked body, the uraeus on the brow and the lock of youth on the right side.
On the front and right sides of the base, some traces of a votive hieroglyphic inscription can still be read: “May Isis give life [to] Psamtik”.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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