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Clay figure of Osiris-Canopus: E.268.1932

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 19


Clay figure of Osiris-Canopus




Nile silt clay, mould-made in two halves and then joined. There is some damage to the base of the figurine. Inside there are finger-marks where the maker has pushed the clay into a mould and there is an additional strip of clay on the inside right-hand side to reinforce the join. The surface is eroded and there are some cracks as a result of the firing process.

The jar is decorated with relief scenes. The lower registers contain two winged figures. On the front is a winged scarab wearing a sundisk and cow-horns. The beetle is probably a reference to re-birth in the after life and commonly appears on coffins. On the back of the jar is an eagle with the head turned to its right shoulder.

On the front of the jar, on a slightly higher register, are two figures of the child of Osiris and Isis: Harpocrates. The young child is depicted with finger in mouth and the side-lock of youth is just about distinguishable on the figure. Behind Harpocrates is a female figure holding a sceptre. She can probably be identified as Isis. The pectoral contains a figure of a seated deity who also appears to have the finger-to-mouth pose and who may also represent Harpocrates. Above this is a heart-shaped amulet, perhaps representing the heart of Osiris. The head of the figurine is human in form and shows the subject with a striated tripartite nemes headcloth. Unlike earlier representations of male gods there is no uraeus (protective cobra) shown.

Whilst such images may have served a funerary purpose because they are representations of Osiris, god of the afterlife, they certainly seem to have been used in temples and also in houses for personal shrines. It is not known whether they were developed in Egypt or Italy. Statues of priests holding an Osiris Canopus jar appear in both countries at around the same time in the first century AD (the Roman Period).

Measurements and weight

Height: 14.5 cm

Find spot

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1932) by Whyte, Edward Towry


Circa 80 - Circa 200

School or Style


Materials used in production


Techniques used in production


References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: E.268.1932
Primary reference Number: 52999
Oldadmincategory: P
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Tuesday 25 February 2020 Last processed: Wednesday 13 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Antiquities

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Clay figure of Osiris-Canopus" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-02-23 14:58:12

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