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Museum purchase, M. H. de Young Endowment Fund
This sculpture exemplifies the Greek influence on Egyptian civilization that occurred in the wake of the reign of Alexander the Great. The seated child can be identified as the Egyptian god Horus, son of Osiris and Isis. According to Egyptian mythology, after the murder of Osiris by his brother Seth, Isis gave birth to a son, Horus, who after many ordeals triumphed over the wicked Seth. In Greek literature Horus was called Harpokrates. In this realistic bronze statue, the child god sits with his arms outstretched, as if asking to be picked up. Yet his body appears to be of a highly older boy, and his wise face seems even more mature. The sidelock of hair on his right side, however, is a symbol of youth in Egyptian art. This sculpture merges Egyptian artistic conventions with the traditional depiction of the Greco-Egyptian deity Harpokrates, who is identified with the Greek baby god Eros. The Greek inscription on the statue's right thigh reveals that it was dedicated to a god, perhaps Harpokrates.