Isis, Roman, AD 1–79; found in the Temple of Isis, Pompeii, Italy, marble with traces of pigment
Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples, 976
[Mysterious ancient drone]
Female Narrator: This barely-covered female figure is a 1st-century Roman interpretation of the Egyptian goddess Isis. The Romans were fascinated with Egyptian deities, and took Isis into their own religious pantheon.
Ken Lapatin: She's an interesting amalgam of the Egyptian and the classical.
Female Narrator: Ken Lapatin, curator of Antiquities at the J Paul Getty Museum.
Ken Lapatin: Isis was a very, very ancient Egyptian goddess, but here she's represented in Greek and Roman style. She's been updated and reflects what the Romans thought of as an early statue, and we see that very much in the stiffness of her pose.
[Music shifts to ancient music with sistrum]
Female Narrator: Look at the statue’s hands. Her upheld right hand used to grasp a sistrum, an Egyptian rattle. Her left still holds an Egyptian symbol for life or eternity, called an ankh. Her wide collared necklace is also Egyptian.
Ken Lapatin: But her stiff pose with right leg forward and her sheer clingy drapery emphasizing her breasts and her belly – these are very much Greco-Roman forms. The transparency of the drapery is a very advanced stylistic feature, but the stiffness of the pose relates back to early Greek sculpture of the 6th Century, BC.
So she’s simultaneously ancient Egyptian, archaizing Greek and contemporary Roman. The Greeks and Romans looked at Egypt as the earliest of civilizations, so they're these references to past times. But the same time they reinterpreted the Egyptian deities into their own contemporary present.