Egypt, Late Period to Ptolemaic, ca. 664 to 30 BCE. A cast leaded bronze oxyrhynchus fish figurine, wearing a crown with horns, solar disk, and uraeus, its body embellished with incised scales as well as modeled fins and tail. Fish were sacred to the goddesses Hathor, Isis, and Mut - hence the distinctive headdress on this example, with a loop behind it for suspension. This fish is a species of elephant fish with a distinctive downturned snout and important associations in Egyptian mythology. The ancient Egyptians worshipped this fish at the town of Medjed, which, after Alexander the Great's conquest, was renamed to be Oxyrhynchus in Greek. Size: 5" L x 2.5" H (12.7 cm x 6.4 cm); 4" H (10.2 cm) on included custom stand.
The fish played a role in one of the most important stories in Egyptian mythology, attesting to the rebirth and immortality of the god Osiris. Although there are many forms of the myth, the general outline of the story is this: Osiris and his queen Isis ruled Egypt. Osiris's brother, Set, had him murdered, but Isis, found his remains. She raised him from the dead using the sacred mysteries of mummification and he impregnated her; then he died again and she hid his body in the desert and gave birth to his son, Horus. Set, enraged, found Osiris's remains and tore his body into pieces that he scattered throughout the land. Isis gathered all of these up - except the penis, which had been eaten by the medjed. Many towns in Egypt claimed to be places where Osiris's body parts were found - towns could profit from pilgrims and worshippers - and Medjed was no exception. This figure, made of relatively expensive bronze, probably functioned as a ritual item held by a temple, or may have been a votive ornament purchased by a wealthy pilgrim or worshipper.
On loan to Miami University Art Museum, Ball State University Art Gallery, George Mason University, and Fitchburg Art Museum from 1988 to 2016.
Provenance: ex collection of Flora Whitney Miller (1897-1986); P.F. collection, Richmond, Michigan, USA, acquired from Royal Athena in June 1988
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Minor chips and nicks to peripheries. Age commensurate surface wear and softening of details. Nice green and russet patina.