Tag Archives: Re

Isis and Nephthys, two Essential Images in the Ancient Egyptian Union of Re and Osiris.


The union of Re and Osiris supposed a challenge to the Ancient Egyptian Art, since new iconography was needed for decorating the tomb walls and the papyri.

From the XVIII Dynasty, some passages of the Book of the Dead were introduced in the royal tombs decoration and that meant to depict moments and gods from the Myth of Osiris into a royal space. However the monarchy was assimilated to the sun god, so some Osirian images suffered a solarization. That forced the ancient Egyptian artist to think of an Osiris-Re iconography.

The mourner (left) and Isis the kite (right) in the decorative program of Sethos I. Ancient Egypt

The mourner (left) and Isis the kite (right) in the decorative program of Sethos I.

We saw that in the XVIII Dynasty the figure of Khepri rising up between two images of a kneeling Osiris was the image of the first hour of the Amduat. But the Osirian world was maybe too important in ancient Egyptian belief for reducing it just to this iconography. The conception of the dead god, which resurrected thanks to the action of two women (Isis and Nephthys) was maybe too stablished in the ancient Egyptian thought.

Not for nothing in the XIX Dynasty Sethos I introduced Osirian iconography in royal monuments and he did not forget the two professional mourners…

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Ancient Egyptian Union and Rebirth of Re and Osiris.


The union of Re and Osiris in ancient Egyptian culture produced as a result new decorative motives in the ancient Egyptian iconography.

Khepri and Osiris. First hour Amdouat. Ancient Egypt. Tomb of Ay

Khepri and two figures of Osiris. First hour of the Amduat. Tomb of Ay. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

The earth god and the sky god needed to be reconciled in religious scenes and from the New Kingdom artist worked in creating new depictions of this mixed conception of ancient Egyptian religion.

In the Book of the Amduat Re in its journey had to unite with Osiris in the depths of the night and receive the power to be reborn in the morning. This idea written in hieroglyphs needed its iconographic reflection. Here ancient Egyptian artists from XVIII Dynasty started their brainstorming.

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A challenge in the Art of Ancient Egypt: Osirian-Solar Iconography.


One of the main challenges for priests and artists in Ancient Egypt were to combine the osirian and solar cosmogonies in the funerary literature and iconography.

Ram-Headed mummy (Re-Osiris) with Isis and Nephthys. Ancient Egypt. Tomb of Nefertari. XIX Dynasty.

Ram-Headed mummy (Re-Osiris) with Isis and Nephthys. Tomb of Nefertari. XIX Dynasty.

The two main pillars in the belief of resurrection in Ancient Egypt were the myth of Osiris and the solar theory. The central aspect in the first one was the resurrection and new life in its most human version: a human body (Osiris), which needs to be embalmed and revived for the eternity. In the second one the stellar body (the sun-Re) did a cyclic trip through the sky; it died in the night and sailed in the solar bark through the dark sky; in the morning after the sun came back to life renewed plying the clear sky.

In Ancient Egypt both ideologies, due to its importance, were quickly conciliated as two versions of a same concept. In the thinking, ancient Egyptian priests could unite Re and Osiris in the funerary texts through the narrative, that is why, for instance, in chapter 67 from the Book of the Dead the dead Osiris wants to get out from the tomb and get into the solar bark of Re.

What happened in the art of Ancient Egypt?

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