Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB

Ivory Head of Serapis

Serapis is a fusion of Osiris, Egyptian god of the underworld, with the sacred bull, Apis, and he is represented as an elder Olympian god like Hades or Zeus with long hair and a full beard. The hair over Serapis’s forehead is often specifically characterized by four cork-screw curls on the forehead. He also frequently appears wearing a modius—a crown shaped like a basket of grain that represents wealth and prosperity. The cult of Serapis, though created in Hellenistic Egypt, became very popular in the Roman era and spread throughout the empire. Votive objects were made in a variety of materials as a way to honor him. Some were simply and inexpensively produced, while others—such as this finely carved ivory example—were clearly intended for more prosperous patrons.

Ivory Head of Serapis
Imperial period, 2nd–3rd century AD
H. 3 1/2 in. (8.89 cm), W. (at modius) 1 1/4 in. (3.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 76.34.55