The Art and Science of Healing: From Antiquity to the Renaissance

The Art and Science of Healing: From Antiquity to the RenaissanceThe Art and Science of Healing: From Antiquity to the Renaissance

Harpocrates

The Egyptian child god Horus, known as Harpocrates in Greek, is the son of Isis and, essentially, the personification of the newborn sun. He is often pictured as a naked boy holding one finger just below the lips of his mouth, which is in fact the hieroglyphic sign for the word “child”. Here we see him represented in various ways. First, he is seated on a ram holding a squat jar with his left hand. On his head he wears the so-called sidelock of youth—a symbol of childhood in ancient Egypt—and a sun disk flanked by pinecones. He wears a short cape over his back, while the ram also wears a sun disk. Another image of Harpocrates takes the form of a bust; here he is shown wearing an amulet on his chest, clearly alluding to his role in magic and healing. Harpocrates appears in numerous amulets, often in the context of protecting an unborn child; an example is one of the uterine amulets described in another part of this exhibit. Harpocrates would also appear with his mother Isis, encouraging protection for both the mother and child.