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Work Statue of Osiris
Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs
Statue of Osiris
© Musée du Louvre/G. Poncet
Religious and funerary beliefs
This stuccoed wooden statue depicts the famous god Osiris, lord of the dead, who was assassinated by his brother Seth and resurrected by his sister and wife, Isis. The god is portrayed in his usual iconographic pose: standing, his body wrapped in a mummy-shaped sheath, wearing the atef crown and holding the crook and flail scepters, which could also be carried by pharaohs.
This statue depicts the extremely popular god Osiris. It is made of stuccoed wood and is still partially gilded, with additional cuprous metal objects such as details on the crown and the scepters. The eyes are inlaid with alabaster and glass.
The god is represented in his usual pose: standing, his body wrapped in a shroud, arms crossed on his chest, holding the crook and the flail. He wears a curved, braided beard as well as the atef crown consisting of a miter, two ostrich feathers, two ram's horns and two uraei.
Osiris was the son of Geb, the god of the earth, and Nut, goddess of the sky. He married his sister Isis and succeeded his father as the ruler of Egypt.
A later legend recorded by the Greek author Plutarch relates the god's murder, perpetuated by his brother Seth, who was jealous of his success. Egyptian texts merely allude to this event, as readers who would have known the details.
Seth made a lavishly decorated box to the size of his brother; during a banquet, he promised to give it to the guest who fit perfectly inside it.
When Osiris stretched out in the box, Seth accomplices closed and sealed the box, and then threw it in the Nile.
After a long search, Isis found her husband's coffin. Unfortunately, Seth discovered the body and chopped it into pieces, which he then scattered throughout Egypt. With the help of Nephthys, Isis refashioned the body and, with Anubis, created the first mummy. She then used her magical powers to conceive a son, Horus, with her deceased spouse. Thus resuscitated and assured of an heir, Osiris could become the king of the dead.
Lord of the afterlife
Osiris was a complex god, linked to the flooding of the Nile, the moon and the royalty; his immense popularity is due to his funerary role.
Originally, he was probably a god of fertility and agriculture. As his cult expanded in the Old Kingdom, Osiris was assimilated with the gods of the underground and became important in funerary rituals.
His myth promised life after death for every individual who received the proper rites. Each deceased became an Osiris in his or her own right and attained eternal life - although the oldest beliefs promised only a vague, collective future linked to the dead king.
Statue of Osiris
Ptolemaic Period, 332-330 BC
Sculpture in the round, gilding, cast iron, stuccoed wood wrapped in fabric and once painted and gilded, cuprous metal
H: 1.685 m; W: 0.36 m; D: 0.38 m
Tomb of Osiris
The Louvre is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
See the related mini-site The Gates of Heaven: Visions of the World in Ancient Egypt