Collections: Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art: Bust of Isis

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    Arts of Africa, Steinberg Family Sculpture Garden
  • 2nd Floor
    Arts of Asia and the Islamic World
  • 3rd Floor
    Egyptian Art, European Paintings
  • 4th Floor
    Contemporary Art, Decorative Arts, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art
  • 5th Floor
    Luce Center for American Art

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37.332E_PS9.jpg 37.332E_SL1.jpg 37.332E_back_PS9.jpg CUR.37.332E_wwg8.jpg CUR.37.332E.jpg 37.332E_NegE_print_SL4.jpg 37.332E_NegC_print_SL4.jpg 37.332E_NegB_print_SL4.jpg CUR.37.332E_NegA_print_bw.jpg CUR.37.332E_NegD_print_bw.jpg

Bust of Isis

  • Medium: Egyptian blue frit
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • Dates: 305-30 B.C.E.
  • Period: Ptolemaic Period
  • Dimensions: 2 3/4 x 1 3/4 x 1 3/8 in. (7 x 4.5 x 3.5 cm)  (show scale)
  • Collections:Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
  • Museum Location: This item is on view in Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity, 19th Dynasty to Roman Period, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Gallery, 3rd Floor
  • Exhibitions:
  • Accession Number: 37.332E
  • Credit Line: Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
  • Rights Statement: Creative Commons-BY
  • Caption: Bust of Isis, 305-30 B.C.E. Egyptian blue frit, 2 3/4 x 1 3/4 x 1 3/8 in. (7 x 4.5 x 3.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.332E. Creative Commons-BY
  • Image: overall, 37.332E_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
  • Catalogue Description: Fragment of a turquoise blue faience figure of Isis suckling the child Horus. The figure is preserved from the waist up; the child is not preserved. The goddess holds her left breast with her right hand (her left arm is missing from the armpit down). She wears a tripartite wig with curls "en echelon". The wig is partially covered with a vulture headdress. The brows are straight and naturally modelled; the nose is straight and thin. The lips are lifted and indented at the corners t o give the mouth the appearance of smiling. The eyes are long and thin with cosmetic lines. The goddess wears a broad collar (in relief). The flat-topped back pillar reaches up to the level of the shoulder blades. Condition: Left arm and lower part of the figure missing; large chip out of top of head; glaze chipped off on uraeus, hand, upper right corner of back pillar; brown incrustation on lappets and sides of face.
  • Record Completeness: Best (81%)
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Recent Comments
17:05 09/5/2009
I find this piece to be very unusual for the time period. And after reading about this particular goddess, I would love clarification about it! I never expected to see an ancient Egyptian goddess, in particular, Isis, grasping her breast. :)
And so, I would love to be informed about this sculpture!
00:24 10/2/2009
This is a good question--sorry it took so long to respond but I was in Turkey when you posted this.
Actually, the gesture that this fragmentary figure of Isis makes is a common reference to her function as the mother of the god Horus, who embodies kingship, and thus also of the living ancient Egyptian king. Isis is frequently shown nursing or offering her breast to her son Horus. Her name means "the throne," which is also the symbol that she wears on her head; as the personification of the throne, she is therefore also nurturing and protecting the king.
I do agree with you that this particular image, perhaps because it is frontal and incomplete, brings this gesture home to the viewer in a more startling way than normal. For a version with a more traditional appearance, see this complete figure of Isis nursing Horus in the collection- of Isis Holding the Child Horus. ( If the link does not work, I've added it as a favorite to my profile.)
I must add, however, that Isis has many functions beyond the maternal in ancient Egyptian belief; her cult spans ancient Egyptian history and was imported to ancient Rome. If you'd like to read more about her, I can send you a few links to books in the Museum's library and you can make an appointment via email to come in and see them at or phone 718-501-6307.
Email me at
22:50 10/4/2009
Thank you very, very much for providing information about Isis and Horus.
I greatly appreciate it.

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