Figure of the god Harpocrates

An exquisite bronze figure of the infant god Harpocrates, assimilated by the Romans and associated with Cupid. He still wears the Egyptian crown, as well as presenting the characteristic positioning of the finger in the mouth. However, the artistic characteristics of the figure are those belonging to the classical world. The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, associated with prosperity, has been incorporated into the piece.

Harpocrates, the Horus-child, is a native of Heliopolis as the son of Isis and Osiris. He was worshipped in many sanctuaries, like those of Edfu, Thebes, Coptos, Mendes, etc., in which he was venerated in other forms adopted from Horus. Harpocrates is the living symbol of the rising sun at the beginning of spring. He was born after the death of his father, Osiris. He is represented then as a defenceless child whom his mother, the goddess Isis, had to hide in the swamps of the Nile Delta, to protect him from the evil Set, his father’s brother. But in the same way that the weak newly-risen sun becomes a powerful sun as it rises higher, the god-child became the powerful Horus, the avenger of his father’s death, fighting against Set. His mother, Isis, in this way changed him into the great Horus who reigned over men and gods.

The lararium was a small shrine in Roman houses in which the family members could place offerings on an altar and offer up prayers to the household gods. These were represented by statuettes called lares, mostly made of bronze. In patrician residences the lararium was in general found in the atrium, the central hall of the residence. In a simpler residence without an atrium, the shrine would be more or less in the kitchen near the central fire.

The technique of lost wax casting is a sculptural procedure using a mould made from a prototype of the piece to be worked, and this prototype is usually made from beeswax. This is covered with a thick layer of soft material, usually clay, which then solidifies. Once this has hardened it is put in a kiln where the wax inside melts and leaks out from expressly made holes in the clay. In its place molten metal is injected and this takes on the exact form of the mould. To remove the final piece the mould must be removed.

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