An Egyptian Carved Stone Head of Isis, Ptolemaic Period, ca. 332 - 30 BCE
Object No: ES2005
With the conquering of Egypt by Alexander the Great came great splendor and wealth under his successors, exemplified by the vast number of stone sculptures made for the Egyptian native aristocracy of administrators, officers, and priests of well-to-do families firmly entrenched in long-established local positions.
Clearly, the Egyptians enjoyed great freedom in pursuing a way of life and worship established by their forefathers. Even in the Greek sources, the Egyptian temples are seen to be a major factor in the Ptolemaic economy - their land holdings are large and they and their priests received special concessions (such as partial or total exemption from certain taxes) and dispensations (eg: temple monopolies and permission to produce such commodities as oil which were otherwise strictly limited).
Over the millennia, the cult of Isis, whose existence in Egypt can be documented from around the middle of the third millennium BCE, came to appropriate several functions. By Ptolemaic Egyptian times – itself influenced by the Greco-Roman world – she continued to acquire new roles while maintaining two of her most important ancient Egyptian functions (as a magician and the mother and protector of the royal throne) with equal, and perhaps even greater strength than before.
This fine carved limestone sculptural head personifies the importance of the cult of Isis during in Ptolemaic Egypt. Here the goddess wears a nemes headdress surmounted by a modius crown of uraei, her serene face with inlaid almond eyes, and a slight smile plays upon her full lips.
Johnson, Janet H., "The Role of the Egyptian Priesthood in Ptolemaic Egypt", in Egyptological Studies in Honor of Richard A. Parker, Presented on the Occasion of his 78th Birthday December 10, (1983), pp. 70 - 84.
Condition: Professional conservation conducted that included light surface cleaning and degreasing, minor losses filled and stabilized. The inlaid eyes now missing, the back and sides with losses to the polished surface, only the base of the crown remains. Despite the damage, the head presents exceptionally well and is in good condition overall.
Dimensions: 3 1/4 x 2 3/4 x 2 5/8 inches (8.3 x 6.9 x 6.6 cm)
Provenance: Private upstate New York collection
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