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Statuette of Osiris

Place of production Egypt
Date 7–6th century BC
Object type sculpture
Medium, technique Bronze

height: 22 cm

Inventory number 51.2285
Collection Egyptian Art
On view Museum of Fine Arts, Basement Floor, Ancient Egypt, Temples and gods

The bronze statuette represents Osiris, one of the most important characters in the Egyptian pantheon. The deity, originally associated with the concept of fertility but had a chthonic aspect as well, began to be recognized as the god of the afterlife during the Fifth Dynasty at the latest. Even if various motifs are frequently alluded to in works of ancient Egyptian art and literature, the myth of Osiris in its fullest form was only narrated by Plutarch in the second century AD. According to the popular version, Osiris, king of Egypt was murdered and dismembered by his jealous brother, Seth. His limbs were gathered by his sister-wife, Isis, the goddess of magic who, assisted by her sister Nephthys, revived Osiris’ body just enough to conceive her son, Horus by him. However, the resurrected god did not want to remain among the living: he descended to the underworld to rule and judge the dead.
Mummified and re-installed in the hierarchy of the gods, Osiris provided a model for corporeal and social reintegration, a status that all Egyptians hoped to acquire following death. Yet, the acquisition of the Osirian-state after death was not an outcome of association with the deity on a personal level but rather signaled an adherence to a cultic community, a membership through which the deceased could also acquire divine status and immortality.
The cult of Osiris was primarily centered around two chief cult places (Abydos in Upper Egypt and Busiris in Lower Egypt); however, in line with the mythical motif of dismemberment, the god was also worshipped at numerous localities all over the country, where ex-voto statuettes such as this figurine here were placed in sanctuaries of the deity. The Budapest statuette depicts Osiris in his regular pose, enveloped in mummy wrappings; the position of the arms with the royal regalia suggests a Lower Egyptian origin. The god wears the atef-crown with the uraeus serpent to which a pair of twisted ram’s horns was added. The high level of craftsmanship reflected in the refined modelling of the body parts and the features, such as beard-braiding or details of the flagellum, suggest that the statuette is a product of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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