Roman, Imperial Period, probably from Egypt / Romano-Egyptian, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. An incredible, striking tile depicting the goddess Isis in high relief. She stands with her head turned, in a naturalistic pose, with her eyes open wide and gazing slightly off to the upper distance, as if looking past a viewer who faces her head-on. She has incredibly detailed, curled hair that falls to her shoulders and is swept back on her head. She also wears a tall headdress, a Romanification of the traditional Egyptian headdress of Isis, which the goddess gained after she assimilated the roles of Hathor: the horns of a cow with the solar disc between them. Here, they are slightly shrunken and abstract, creating a more naturalistic look. This artists' interpretation, as Roman ones often were, emphasizes humanity its in portrayal of the goddess. Size: 3" L x 6.55" W x 10.45" H (7.6 cm x 16.6 cm x 26.5 cm)
Isis, an ancient Egyptian goddess, struck a chord with the polytheistic worshippers of the Roman Empire, and her worship spread throughout it during the early centuries of the Imperial Period. For example, there is a gorgeous wall painting preserved at Pompeii of her greeting the Greek heroine Io. The emperor Caligula (reigned 37-41 CE) established a procession honoring the goddess that wound through Rome during his reign; according to the historian Josephus, Caligula went so far as to dress in female garb and take part in the mysteries of the Isis cult. Temples honoring her, called Iseum, were established throughout Rome, with many emperors seeking her favor and protection - Hadrian decorated his villa at Tibur with scenes from her life, and Galerius regarded her as his personal protector. This gorgeous tile may have graced the home of a wealthy patron or a temple wall.
Provenance: collection of the late Alfred E. Stendahl, Stendahl Gallery, Los Angeles, California, USA, acquired prior to 1975
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