Bronze Sculpture Of Osiris - FZ.380
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 700 BC to 500 BC
Dimensions: 8.125" (20.6cm) high x 4.25" (10.8cm) wide
Catalogue: V29
Collection: Egyptian
Style: Late Dynastic Period
Medium: Bronze


This exceptionally large and well-preserved depiction of Osiris, god of the Hereafter, was hollow cast via the lost wax method and incrusted with a variety of secondary inlays. The god is depicted in his traditional, mummiform pose enveloped in a shroud from which his arms protrude. These are crossed at the wrists over his chest, with his hands holding a crook and flail respectively. These attributes suggest that the origins of Osiris lay in the agricultural and pastoral pursuits of the early ancient Egyptians who used the flail to thresh grain and the crook to shepherd their flocks. He wears the White Crown of Upper Egypt which is fronted by a uraeus, or sacred cobra. These serpents were believed not to have eye lids and were employed as eternal, vigilant protectors of gods and kings because the Egyptians believed that they never closed their eyes to sleep. Osiris is also shown wearing a false beard, generally identified as that of a goat because the ancient Egyptians, like the Greeks and Romans after them, believe that the goat was one of the most sexually prolific of animals. This characteristic enabled Osiris to know Isis posthumously, fathering their son, Horus. In like manner, that characteristic enabled the deceased, identified with Osiris, to be resurrected in the Hereafter on the model of human procreation.

The use secondary inlays in this bronze, particularly striking in the eyes, but also prominent in the crook and flail and in the sun disc on the crown, deserve special mention. The ancient Egyptians believed that the minerals of the earth were imbued with special properties and that these properties could be conveyed to deities when their images were embellished with inlays. As a result of this conceit, this image of Osiris was anciently regarded as being minerally-charged with all of the natural resources of the earth. When entombed, all of these powers were brought to bear as well on his resurrection. The deceased, often identified with Osiris, would likewise benefit from such powers. It is on the basis of such Egyptian practices that Christian reliquaries and covers of books of the Gospels were similarly encrusted during the Middle Ages. The practice persists to this day among certain adherents of New Age philosophies.


For a comparable, but somewhat smaller figure of Osiris, likewise incrusted with secondary inlays, see Werner Kaiser, Ägyptisches Museum Berlin (Berlin 1967), inventory number 839 on page 82.

- (FZ.380)



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