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This small figurine is an example of mass production, which individuals would purchase to have in their homes.
The ancient Egyptian goddess Isis, seated on a low-backed throne, that is decorated on each side with rows of raised squares, is nursing the infant god Horus also known as Harpokrates. The goddess wears a long skirt, wig, and a headdress, in the form of the hieroglyph for her name.
She offers her left breast with her right hand and supports the baby Horus with her left. Horus sits on his mother’s knee in a slightly stiff pose facing straight ahead, with his arms by his sides and his legs together. He wears his hair in a side-lock, as was traditional for Harpokrates. There is a long rectangular base.
The popularity of this particular portrayal [picture] of Isis as a mother goddess feeding her child, is significant, in that it highlights the central role of women as mothers in the family, whether in the human family, or in one that is divine.
This small figurine, just 5.5 cm in height, is one of many such images of Isis and her child, the infant Horus, which were made in many different materials, (bronze, terracotta, etc.). This one, moulded in blue green Egyptian faience, is an example of mass production and most probably was made for sale. This particular image of the goddess is known as ‘Isis lactans’, (Latin for ‘Isis producing her milk’).
Isis was worshipped in Egypt as a mother goddess and individuals would purchase images of her, (especially of her nursing her child), to have in their homes as a sign of their religious affiliation.
Are there links to current religious practices or a modern equivalent?
This image of Isis with the infant Horus was adopted by Christian iconography, [picture making], where the Mother (Mary) and Child (Jesus) are widely portrayed in a similar (though more humanised) pose.
This image of Isis with the infant Horus was adopted by Christian iconography, [picture making], where the Mother (Mary) and Child (Jesus) are widely portrayed in a similar, (though more humanised), pose. Similar cults occur elsewhere. Mother-goddesses, often in close connection with their partners and/or child(ren), are to be found in many religions worldwide and their worship is probably as common as that of male deities. Isis and Horus were also part of a divine family. Isis’ partner and the father of her child, was the god Osiris. Together with Horus, Isis and Osiris formed the divine Triad that was central to mainstream Egyptian religion. Such divine families can be found elsewhere.
The popularity of this particular portrayal, [picture], of Isis as a mother goddess feeding her child, is significant, in that it highlights the central role of women as mothers in the family, whether in the human family, or in one that is divine. Mary, (often with the baby Jesus), plays a similar role, especially in Catholicism. In polytheistic religions, like that of ancient Egypt, most aspects of life and human experience were represented by different deities. In the case of Egypt, these deities might take animal or human forms, so it is striking that the central Triad was composed of humans.
Ancient Egyptian Deities, Egyptian Gods and Goddesses and Egyptian faience.
Ancient Egypt Resources.
More details on this treasure can be found in the online catalogue.
1993, British Museum Press