Statuette of Osiris
Period: 26th - 30th Dynasty, circa 664-332 B.C.
Dimensions: H: 30.2 cm
Ex-Charles Bouché collection (1928 – 2010); ex-Courtois collection; acquired from Maison Platt, France, during the 1950s.
Complete and in excellent condition, ends of the horns are broken. Dark patina with traces of wear. Remains of copper-colored traces behind the right feather, under the corroded superficial layer of the bronze.
This statuette is made of solid bronze and was cast using the lost wax process: it is now fixed on a wooden base which still bears an old label at the back, with numbers written in pencil.
The image follows the canonical iconography of Osiris, represented with slender and elegant proportions; a tall crown adorns his head. The god is standing upright, his body wrapped in a shroud that perfectly hugs the contours of his legs, buttocks, arms and feet. At the back, the fabric goes up very high and forms a clearly visible ridge, especially when seen in profile.
He wears the atef crown, composed of the white crown of Upper Egypt, flanked by two ostrich feathers. This headgear was originally made of wheat ears, recalling that Osiris was the inventor of agriculture and that he passed on his knowledge to all men; a cobra descends down the front of the headgear and rises as an uraeus above the forehead. In his hands, which protrude from the shroud and are placed one above the other, the god holds two royal insignia, the nekhekh scepter (the flagellum) and the hekat scepter, the shepherds’ crook. Like the pharaohs, his chin is adorned with a false beard terminating in a ringlet.
The position of the hands, which are stacked but do not touch, is a clue to the origin of the statuette, which would have been manufactured in the centers of Lower Egypt.
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 scepter (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 B.C., statuettes of Osiris were among the most important funerary offerings.
PAGE-GASSER M. – WIESE A. B., Egypte, Moments d’éternité, Geneva, 1997, pp. 260-261, no. 172.
PERDU O. et al., La collection égyptienne du Musée de Picardie, Amiens, 1994, p. 125, nos. 215-216.
Reflets du divin, Antiquités pharaoniques et classiques d’une collection privée, Geneva, 2001, p. 100, no. 85.
On Osiris, see:
WILKINSON H.R., The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, London, 2003, pp. 118-