Egyptian Alabaster Falcon Headed God (Horus)

Egyptian · Dynasty 26th, ca. 664-525 B.C.

Material

Alabaster

Pigment

Dimensions

L: 18.4 cm (7.2 in)

H: 14.3 cm (5.6 in)

Reference

34502

Price

$150,000

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Overview

This remarkable head of falcon carved in soft, semi-translucent calcite belongs to a long-time tradition of Egyptian animalistic art. The artist’s ability to represent this particular bird, a falcon, is remarkable; the individual physical appearance and color markings are masterly combined with the stylization and transformation of the image necessitated by the need to represent a deity. The latter is revealed by the human ears incorporated in the sides. Supplying this falcon-headed image with human ears was probably intended to make sure that the prayers of the supplicant would be heard by the god. The human aspect is also stressed in the shape of the back of the head and neck, which looks like a wig worn by the Egyptians. The front is accentuated by the dark color of the beak and stripes around the eyes, which create a striking yet realistic pattern of falcon’s natural coloring. The orbital ring of light skin is rendered plastically, and especially well-defined is the shape of the beak. These taxonomic characteristics instill the raptor’s head with a certain sense of confidence in its power.

In Egyptian believes, falcons were important symbols of many gods. Horus, one of the earliest and most popular Egyptian deities, was the sky god whose right eye was the sun and the left eye the moon. Through the assimilation with other major gods (Sun god; son of Isis and Osiris), Horus appears in many forms with extensive mythology. One of the major aspects of Horus’ cult is his link with the kingship of Egypt; his name was incorporated into the pharaonic titulary (“Living Horus on Earth”). For this reason, Horus was represented wearing the tall Double crown symbolizing his kingship over all Egypt. Also depicted as a falcon-headed human, the sacred ancestral “soul” of the Lower Egyptian city of Pe was regarded as a powerful spirit serving the deceased king and assisting the living king. Other falconiform deities are known in the Egyptian pantheon; some were worshipped locally (Dunanwi, Khenty-irty, Khenty-khety, Montu, Nemty, Sokar). One of the four sons of Horus who were responsible for the embalming practices was Qebensenuf, represented in the form of a mummiform figure with a falcon head.

Condition

Complete; surface abraded on the lower left side and cheek; it is chipped at the right eyebrow and nape.

Provenance

Art market, prior to 1998;

Ex- U.S. family collection, acquired from a New York gallery in 1998.

Bibliography

ARNOLD D., An Egyptian Bestiary, New York, 1995, pp. 44-45, no. 50.

BAILLEUL-LeSUER R., ed., Between Heaven & Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, Chicago, 2013, pp. 59-60, 133-137, 173-174, 178-179, 181-183, 203-205.

WILKINSON R.H., The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, London, 2003, pp. 88-89; 200-211.