© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
49.1965
Title
Falcon
Classification
Sculpture
Work Type
sculpture
Date
mid 7th-late 1st century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Period
Late Period to Ptolemaic
Culture
Egyptian
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/304372
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Leaded bronze
Technique
Cast, lost-wax process
Dimensions
3.3 x 3.9 x 1.4 cm (1 5/16 x 1 9/16 x 9/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 85.73; Sn, 7.49; Pb, 5.78; Zn, 0.063; Fe, 0.11; Ni, 0.09; Ag, 0.09; Sb, 0.06; As, 0.38; Bi, 0.189; Co, 0.02; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001

J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The surface patina is dark green with spots of red. There is evidence of deep-seated corrosion and long-term burial. A fragment (10 x 4 mm) on the front of the right foot is lost.

The falcon is a solid cast. It appears to have been modeled directly in wax. Point-shaped marks decorating the head, body, and eyes were made in the wax with a blunt-pointed tool. A line separating the legs and body appears to indicate that the legs were added using smaller pieces of wax after the body was formed.


Henry Lie (submitted 2001)

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Loan from the Collection of Edouard Sandoz
Object Number
49.1965
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This small angular falcon wears no headdress; its large feet stand on a thin rectangular base. Randomly positioned circular indentations indicate the feathers on the wings and head.

The soaring flight and predatory character of the falcon linked the mighty raptor to the god of the living king, Horus, early in the pharaonic tradition. The living king of Egypt was identified as an earthly Horus, and from the late Predynastic Period (c. 3100 BCE), the king bore a special royal “Horus name.” The falcon, as the sacred animal of Horus, came to symbolize divine kingship, as the king was the earthly representation of Horus. The common appearance of the Double Crown and uraeus on bronze figurines of falcons reinforces this royal connection. The falcon was also associated with the sky, with its eyes representing the sun and the moon and its large wings outspread to protect the earth below. Later, the falcon became associated with the sun god Re, bearing a sun disc on its head (known as Re-Harakhty). Other gods also had falcons as their sacred animals, such as Montu the god of war, who is distinguished by a double-plume headdress.

As with so many animals associated with the divine realm, during the later periods the falcon became the focus of mummification, burial, and votive offerings. The numerous bronze falcon statuettes are characterized by their upright, yet resting, stance with wings folded at the side. They range in size from small ornaments to large, freestanding figures. Many of the larger examples, such as 1943.1118, were hollow-cast with an inner compartment in which an actual bird could be deposited. Hundreds of thousands of mummified falcons were buried in extensive catacombs at sacred sites throughout Egypt. The Greco-Roman period temples at Philae and Edfu represent the final flourishing of the cult. The more elaborately decorated figures include engraved and inlaid detailing of the feathers and facial markings. The facial patterning, seen on 1943.1118, 1957.165, and 1957.166, follows the conventions established early on with the feathered eye and moustachial stripe. Although the representation of falcons remained constant throughout Egyptian history, it is not zoologically accurate and cannot be identified with any particular species (1).

NOTES:

1. See discussion of the falcon in Egyptian art and Egypt in P. F. Houlihan, The Birds of Ancient Egypt, The Natural History of Egypt 1 (Warminster, 1986) 46-48. See also R. Bailleul-LeSuer, ed., Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt, exh. cat., Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (Chicago, 2012) 178-88, which includes discussion of modern scientific analysis of mummified bird remains from Egypt.


Marian Feldman

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu