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Museum piece #15 – E.27247

Louvre E.27247 Mourner believed to be Isis mourning Osiris (Source: Geolocation).

Object E.27247, housed within the collection of the Louvre Museum, Paris, is a terracotta portrait of a female mourner. It is identifiable as a portrait of a mourner due to the pose of the arm over the head which is a common pose in scenes of mourning not only in ancient Egypt, but all across the ancient Near East.

Relief depicting three female mourners beating their breasts (Source: Brooklyn Museum).

Women were also depicted throwing dirt on their heads, pulling at their hair, tearing their dresses open, and beating their breasts (left).

Although it is not known for certain, it is believed that the terracotta portrait may portray the goddess Isis, lamenting the death of her husband, Osiris. Mourning figures of Isis and her sister, Nephthys, usually include the hieroglyphic spelling of their names upon their heads (below).

Isis (right) and Nephthys (left) mourning the death of Osiris (Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

The lamentation of Isis and Nephthys is described in the Pyramid Texts:

The het-bird comes, the falcon comes; they are Isis and Nephthys, they come embracing their brother, Osiris. … Weep for thy brother, Isis! Weep for thy brother, Nephthys! Weep for thy brother. Isis sits, her arms upon her head; Nephthys has seized the tips of her breasts because of her brother. (Pyramid Text 1280-82).

The mourning of Isis and Nephthys for Osiris was believed to have been in preparation for his rebirth. Consequently, the presence of mourners has been linked with ensuring the rebirth of the deceased.

It is believed that professional mourners were sometimes hired to participate in funeral processions.



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