This fine bronze statuette depicts the Hellenistic god Harpocrates, posed as if seated on a throne. The child god wears the cap of Amun with the sun disc and double plumes, paired with the sidelock of youth. His right index finger is raised to his lips in a gesture which evoked the hieroglyph for childhood for the Ancient Egyptians, but was reinterpreted as a sign for silence by the Hellenistic rulers of the Ptolemaic Period. The god is depicted nude, as is typical for images of Harpocrates. The details of the face and the texture of the plait are very finely rendered. The figure’s feet rest on a trapezoidal base. Such bronze statues of deities were placed in temples as votive offerings.
Date: 332-30 BC Period: Circa Ptolemaic Period Provenance: Ex John Aiello collection, Hewitt, New York; Ex JL Collection Condition: Fine condition, with a pleasing green patina and some earthly encrustation across the surface. Mounted on a custom-made stand Please note that the measurements provided are including the stand. Repair to the top of the plume.
The Hellenistic god Harpocrates was adapted by the Greeks from the Egyptian child god Horus, also known as Harpa-Khruti (Horus the Child). Son of the goddess Isis and her husband Osiris, Horus represented the newborn sun as it rose each day. The deity was often depicted as a small boy with a finger held to the lips, a typical Egyptian gesture symbolising childhood and also the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for “child”. The deity was later adopted by the Greeks and the misinterpretation of the gesture of the finger to the lips led to the association of Harpocrates with silence, hence making him the god of silence, secrets, and confidentiality in Ancient Greek mythology.
Greeks and Romans typically made votive offerings to mark important life transitions. Votive offerings often fulfilled obligations that individuals had made while praying. Unlike sacrifices, in which a gift to the gods was destroyed, offerings were typically deposited intact in the temples. One of the primary functions of Greek and Roman temples was as a storage place for these offerings. The temples themselves were a votive offering, dedicated by the community as a whole to a particular god or goddess.