Harpokrates was a deity worshipped across cultures. In Ancient Egyptian he was known as Harpa-Khruti (Horus the Child) and was the son of the goddess Isis and her husband Osiris. The deity was often depicted as a small boy, as he is here, with a side-lock of youth and his index finger held to the lips or the chin, a typical Egyptian gesture symbolising childhood and also the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for “child”. The child deity was later adopted by the Greeks and the Hellenic name was formed. The gesture of the finger to the lips was misinterpreted and led to the association of Harpokrates with silence, hence making him the god of silence, secrets and confidentiality in Ancient Greek and Roman mythology. The youthful god was usually depicted either touching his finger to his lips or initiating the gesture, which we induce is happening here as no remains of a finger can be seen. Statues of Harpokrates were placed before temples to indicate that religious sites were sanctified and should be honoured with silence.
Exquisite Roman Marble Head of Harpokrates
An exquisite example of a Roman marble head fragment of the Divine Child, Harpocrates. The god is depicted with a youthful face, the roundness of his features exemplifying the child-like quality. He is depicted with a rounded chin and large, deep-set, almond eyes. His lips are full and slightly parted, a hint of smile. His hair is tied to the top of his head in a small topknot whilst elegant curls cascade around his face, adding to the youthful quality of his appearance. The piece is mounted on a custom-made stand. Height indicated includes the height of the stand.
Provenance: Ex North London Gallery; previously held in a London, UK, private family collection, held since before the 1960s. Checked against the Interpole Database of Stolen works of Art and accompanied by an AIAD certificate.
Condition: Excellent. Fragmentary piece. Damage to the topknot.