Isis Nursing Horus 1. Introduction As I entered the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, I began viewing the artworks, and it was there that I noticed a beautiful sculpture. Right away it captured my attention. It was a statute of Isis sitting with Horus on her lap. It was called Isis Nursing Horus. First, I liked the subject matter. It was very feminine, but also showed what a strong woman Isis was. There were other sculptures that I saw while viewing which were much more detailed and painted.
But this sculpture was my favarite.
As Plutarch writes of Isis: “she is both wise and a lover of wisdom; as her name appears to denote that, more than any other, knowing and knowledge belong to her”( Plutarch). The name of sculpture and its magnificence inspired me to choose this sculpture as a subject of my research paper. 2. Vital Statistics Title: Isis Nursing Horus Period: Ptolemaic Period – Ptolemaic (332-30 BC) Dimensions: H:21. 4 cm Properties: Bronze Where used: Temple MuseumLocation:Rosicrucian Egyptain, San Jose Figure 1: Isis Nursing Horus (Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium) 3.
Subject Matter: Composition, Shape, Space, Surface Texture & Color This royal portraiture of Isis, a three dimensional volume statuette, is made of bronze. She seats on a throne which is the official chair or seat upon which a monarch is seated on state or ceremonial occasions. Thrones have been the symbol of deities since ancient times and have ever since been associated with royal power. This artwork consists of two intersecting planes: the mother and the child. The goddess, Isis, is wearing an unadorned, tight-fitting robe and is holding Horus’s head in her right hand, while offering her left breast with the other.
Exquisitely portrayed, the queen’s shape is very delicate. The young god seems to be welded to her knees. With his broken arms against his body, his open palm on his knees, and legs held together, he lacks the natural softness of a child and he is already tall and muscular. Indeed, the pose in this high hieratic composition is fairly unrealistic. The sculpture placed the king at a right angle to his mother, therefore provides two “frontal” views; the queen facing forward, the king to the side. In another break with convention, he freed the queen’s arms and legs from the stone block of throne, giving her figure greater independence” (Stokstad, 66). It seems Isis is wearing a necklace with gold inlays, a wig and a crown topped with a solar disk placed between two cow horns. Her crown atop the wig is the symbol of the mother-goddess. The white of Isis and Horus’s eyes are gold-plated, and the pupils have been darkened. Sporadic traces of gold on the surface reveal that it was once completely gilded. (Shaw, Ian, and Paul Nicholson, 91) Isis Nursing Horus statuette is made of bronze.
In any Egyptain museum, visitors will be immediately struck by the dense assembly of sculptures in granite, quartzite and wood, often with extensive traces of original polychromy. But Bronzes appear less prominently and changing color over time, this might distort our understanding of Egyptian sculptures. Ancient Egyptain bronze sculptures were mostly made of copper with some added lead or silver, which is not the usual alloy 10% tin and 90% copper. Therefore, when the bronzes were buried, their surface changed in appearance relating to the chemical nature of the alloys and earth, as in the case of Isis Nursing Horus in its present condition.
Black bronze’, known to Egyptians as hmty-km, was, as the American scholar and curator John Cooney discovered, created by adding gold. Although this sculpture has suffered and lost in some parts, in the course of history, I think it is a powerful work and Isis’s torso gives her figure a readable linearity. (Goudchaux) 4. Iconography; Cultural History Isis: Assimilation of Hathor Isis shows many of the attributes of Hathor, a very prehistoric deity, dating to predynastic times. A goddess of love, beauty, song, and dance, on oth figures Isis wears the queenly vulture headdress with uraeus ornament. Her crown, consisting of cow horns and a solar disc of atop modius, was originally of Hathor. Both statuettes, which probably provided as votive offerings in temples to Isis, are so delicate; with its inlaid gold eyes and fragile features. They both show exceptional detail with their small scale statuettes. (K, 126) • Isis Worship: A History Isis is known as Au Set, the “oldest of the old,” in Egypt. She was born on the morning of the first day in the Delta of the Nile.
Her worship has survived for thousands of years and she is known as the “Lady of Ten Thousand Names,” Such as: Queen of Heaven, Mother of the Gods, The One Who is All, Lady of Green Crops, The Brilliant One in the Sky, Star of the Sea, Great Lady of Magic, Mistresof the House of Life, She Who Knows How To Make Right Use of the Heart, Light-Giver of Heaven, Lady of the Words of Power, Moon Shining Over the Sea. But Her True name is Isis (Monaghan 161). Her worship crossed from the Delta of the Nile to as far as west and north as Great Britain, and the Rhine River regions.
The period of her worship can not be dated accurately, but documents in the form of ancient hieroglyphs on pyramid walls show her appearing as far back as 3,000 B. C. E. Her worship has stayed alive for over 4,000 years even after being publicly suppressed. Her worship did not vanish, but she was absorbed into the developing Christian beliefs. Many statues of Isis nursing Horus were painted into statues of the Madonna and Christ Child (Cott 20). The courses of time, many of the titles were transferred to the Virgin Mary. For example, the titles of Divine Mother and Star of the Sea are common by both Isis and Mary. pic] The greatest temple to Isis is on Philae, an island in the Nile, and it dates back to 380 B. C. E. ancient Egyptians believed that Isis protected Egypt from invasion from the vantage of her temple on Philae (Fleming, Lothian). • Isis & Osiri Isis has come to symbolizes faithfulness and the power of restorative love. According to the Egyptians practice of embalming, the myth of Isis and Osiris is one of death and rebirth. Their mother is Nut, Goddess of the sky; their father is Geb, God of the Earth (Cott 9). Isis gets married to Osiris, her brother, and they are happy together.
They work together to bring civilization to humanity. But their brother envies their happiness and kills Osiris. Isis overwhelmed by his death, and cuts her hair and rips her clothes in her sorrow. In despair, she travels to the home of Queen Astarte in Phoenica to locate Osiris’s body. She becoms a nursemaid to Queen Astarte’s infant son and becomes bonded with the infant. Therefore, she bestows the cloak of immoratality on the child. She is discovered placing the infant in the hearth fire and is stopped by the horror stricken Queen. In this time, Isis expresses her identity and her search for Osiris to Queen Astarte.
The Queen leads Isis to find Osiris by making a connection between the fragrant tree in the palace garden and Isis’s tale. (Cott, 10)Therefore, Isis finds Osiris’s body back and returns it to Egypt. Set notices that Isis found Osiris’s body and he steals the body again and cuts it into pieces. But Isis does not give up and finds all the pieces except his phallus because a Fish ate it. Then the resourceful goddess creates a phallus out of gold. Isis reassembles Osiris’s body and puts them together with magic words in the embalming rite to bring Osiris back to life.
Osiris is a first living god after death and he gets symbolized as a “king of the Dead. ” (Cott 16) • Isis: Magician &Healer Isis is known as the Great Magician for Egyptians. As a result of her intelligence and power, she desired a place among the gods for herself and her son, Horus. She Plotted to achieve the power which was essential for her leadership. One day, Isis collected some of the drool from Re who is the Great Sun God, and mixed his salvia with clay and formed a poisonous snake out of it. Then she brought the snack to life by magic.
She placed the snake in a situation so that it could hit Re. Therefore, Re called all of gods to save him, but Isis was the only god that has power to cure Re. Isis promised to save Re if he would tell her his secret name of power. Re agreed to give her his secret name and let her to share the name with only her son, Hours. Therefore, Isis used Re’s secret name to heal him of the poison (Monaghan 162). Isis was the most powerful magician of all the Gods to the Egyptains. Many of her magical workings were completed with Thoth, the god of wisdom, and his wife Ma’at, the goddess of the natural order of things.
According to Isian magic, tempering of magic with wisdom and the rules of nature is a basic element. (Farrar 64) Isis is a sympathetic Goddess and she loves healing people. Manuscripts have been found that show recipes and healing rituals which Isis taught. She introduces many medicines to people. For example, one manuscript explains a recipe to cure burns and fevers, through a symbolic change of identities. The Sick person takes on the identity of Horus. Ritual words are spoken and a medicine spread over the ill or injured person . Isis is not only a sympathetic goddess, but also a forgiving goddess.
There are stories that show Isis’s forgiveness. (Cott 9) • Isis: Divine Mother Goddess Isis is known for bringing civilization to humanity. She is responsible for weaving, spinning, agriculture, healing, and the arts especially metalworking to humanity. Her priests were called mesniu, translated as smiths. The Egyptians pray to her for her intervention in their destiny. Because of her own experiences of grief, she was compassionate to people (Conway119). • Isis: nursing Horus She was the symbolic mother of the king. She is regarded as the symbolic mother of the King.
In myth, she revives her dead husband and brother, Osiris, and conceived her son Horus by him. She has protected her son Horus from snakes, predators and other dangers and she would protect mortal children also. Isis is represented as a mother suckling her young son Horus and it is in this aspect that the Goddess was regarded as the vital link between Deities and Royalty, since the King was regarded as the living Horus on the throne of Egypt (K 26). 5. Conclusion Isis is revered as one of the most perfect Goddess. She is known as healing rituals, building spiritual awareness, grieving, divination, childbirth, ertility, initiations, matters of fate and destiny, and matters of civilization and domesticity (Cott 4). I think the best explanation of Isis lies in the words of Apuleius, the Roman writer; “You see me here, Lucius, in answer to your prayer. I am nature, the universal Mother, mistress of all the elements, primordial child of time, sovereign of all things spiritual, queen of the dead, queen also of the immortals, the single manifestation of all gods and goddesses that are, my nod governs the shining heights of Heavens, the wholesome sea breezes.
Though I am worshipped in many aspects, known by countless names. . . some know me as Juno, some as Bellona . . . the Egyptians who excel in ancient learning and worship call me by my true name… Queen Isis. ” Isis was a goddess in her own right as well as being the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus, two other strong gods. Despite the fact that she was a goddess, she was also a mother, which, on some level, I find very profound. As Robert Graves wrote; “Cease your tears now, for I have come to help you. I looked down and saw the sorrows of your life.
All things will soon change for you, as under my watchful light your life is restored, renewed,” Isis has the depth love for humanity and sympathy towards our sorrows (Monaghan 160). She offers us hope after loss. She suffers through her own loss, grief, and sorrow. Her experience gives her the insight that sad experiences can bring something new and valuable to us. As Rilke, my favorite German Poet, believed, grief and sad experiences are a “moment of tension”, and to reject the pain of life is to reject a portion of being. The story of Isis can help us to be patient, when we are faced with the loss of a loved one, a dream, or hope.
Work cited Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium. Discover Egypt: Features. 2005. Lewis. 28 April 2008 Plutarch. On Isis and Osiris. 28 April 2008. Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History: Revised Second Edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2005. Shaw, Ian, and Paul Nicholson. The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt. London, United Kingdom: British Museum Press, 1995. Goudchaux, Guy Weill. Protectors of the Kingdom. 1 April. 2008. Apollo. 28 April. 2008 < http://www. apollo-magazine. co. uk/email/reviews/586506/protectors-of-thekingdom. thtml> K, Anne.
Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: Women in Ancient Egypt. Vermont: Hudson Hills Press, 1996. Farrar, Janet and Stewart Farrar. Witches’ Goddess. Blaine: Phoenix Pub, 1987. Cott, Jonathan. Isis and osiris: Exploring the Goddess Myth. New York: Doubleday Dell press, 1994. Fleming, Fergus and Alan Lothian. The Way to Eternity: Egyptian Myth. London: Duncan Baird Pub, 1997. Monaghan, Patricia. The Goddess Path: Myths, Invocations & Rituals. Chicago: Llewellyn, 1999. Conway, D. J. Magick of the Gods and Goddesses: Invoking the Power of the Ancient. New York: Llewellyn. 1997.
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