Mirror of Isis with Horus as a baby

This bronze mirror portrays Isis as a figure of fertility and maternity. She holds her son, Horus, who appears as a miniature adult. As the mother of Horus, the protector of the king, Isis was essentially the queen of the gods, and thus the universal mother.

The form above her head looks much like the hieroglyph of a lotus blossom, a symbol of creation for the Egyptians because it closed every night and blossomed again every morning.

Mirror of Isis with Horus as a baby
Mirror of Isis with Horus as a baby

The origins of the goddess Isis, who in later periods of Egyptian history became one of the most important deities, are quite difficult to know for sure: no city in Egypt claimed to be her birthplace or burial place, and we have no real records of her before the 5th Dynasty. Yet she is clearly a goddess of great importance already in the Pyramid texts, where she appears over eighty times as she assists the deceased king on his journey. In the funerary texts of later periods her protective role appears increasingly predominant and her power appears to grow to the point where she overshadows her brother and companion Osiris.

“Egyptian Christian iconography was influenced in clear ways by the appropriation of images from ancient Egypt… [An] example of Christian appropriation is the conversion of Egyptian motifs into biblical or Christian scenes. Isis nursing Horus-Harpocrates was adopted for images of the Virgin Mary nursing Jesus…”

― ‘Archaeology of Early Christianity in Egypt,’ Darlene L. Brooks Hedstrom in Pettegrew, David K. et al., eds., The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Archaeology (Oxford Handbooks Online), Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, 2019

Isis appears practically nude, which was uncommon for a god. Here, she is portrayed in a sensual manner: the band around her waist is a garment that is often seen on eroticized feminine figurines buried with mummies, which were believed to help the deceased magically procreate in the afterlife.

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1292 BC. Now in the Indianapolis Museum of Art. 51.44