Skip Navigation

Erotic Composition

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: 19th Dynasty to Roman Period, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Gallery, 3rd Floor
Despite the overtly sexual imagery, this composition has important religious content. The procreative union recalls the birth of Horus after the murdered Osiris posthumously impregnated his wife Isis. This legend, one of ancient Egypt’s most important myths, was associated with fertility and resurrection. The six small figures probably represent priests. The bound oryx held by the two attendants at the right signifies the destruction of evil and reinforces Osiris’s triumph.
MEDIUM Limestone, pigment
  • Place Made: Alexandria, Egypt
  • DATES 305–30 B.C.E.
    PERIOD Early Ptolemaic Period
    DIMENSIONS 6 1/2 x 3 3/4 x 6 11/16 in. (16.5 x 9.5 x 17 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Gift in memory of Dr. Jacob Hirsch and Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Limestone group in the round on rectangular base. Erotic subject. In center nude woman wearing curled wig attended by six nude males each wearing the side-lock. In front right corner two boys (?) hold miniature figure of a bound oryx. Flesh of males painted a bright red, that of woman white, her wig black and the base a brown-yellow. Condition: Broken and assembled from many pieces but apparently complete. The base is intact.
    CAPTION Erotic Composition, 305–30 B.C.E. Limestone, pigment, 6 1/2 x 3 3/4 x 6 11/16 in. (16.5 x 9.5 x 17 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift in memory of Dr. Jacob Hirsch and Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 58.13. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 58.13_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 58.13_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.