This is an absolutely huge amulet in the shape of the wedjat-eye, or the eye of Horus. Amulets like this, measuring less than a centimeter up to a few centimeters, are frequently encountered, but in this size they are very rare. In addition, this eye is of the openwork type, which is also far less frequently seen than the solid type.
The eye was made of faience in a very warm, deep blue colour, that symbolised the heavens and the cosmic waters. Although some discoloration has occurred with age and some encrustation is present, much of the original colour is still visible.
The amulet is horizontally pierced for suspension.
The eye, believed to belong to the falcon-headed god Horus and referred to as the wedjat or udjat eye (meaning "the sound eye"), was a very popular and powerful amulet in ancient Egypt; Andrews (see below) remarks that it is probably found in greater numbers on mummies than any other amulet, and, of course, it could also be worn in life.
At its most basic the wedjat is a human eye with brow above and markings below; the latter take the form of a drop shape at the front and an uncurling spiral at the back, said to imitate the markings on the head of the lanner falcon, but also mentioned as tears connected with the injuring of the eye.
The word wedjat or udjat meant "the sound one", referring to the eye of the god Horus after it had been plucked out during one of his battles with Seth, and then healed by Thoth. This Horus was the elder (Greek Haroëris), the celestial falcon and great creator god whose right eye was the sun and left eye the moon. It is generally supposed that the wedjat was the moon eye, which was "injured" as it waned and "restored" as it waxed each month, but the term might just as well apply to the sun eye, the "sound" one as opposed to the "injured" one. When Osiris rose to pre-eminence as the god of the dead, the wedjat became identified with the eye of his son Horus. According to the Osiris myth, Horus offered the healed eye to his dead father and so powerful a charm was it that it restored him to life (Andrews 1994, p. 43-44).
Claudia Müller-Winkler, Die ägyptischen Objekt-Amulette. Mit Publikation der Sammlung des Biblischen Instituts der Universität Freiburg, Schweiz, ehemals Sammlung Fouad S. Matouk (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis, Series Archaeologica, 5) (Freiburg, Schweiz, Universitätsverlag; Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987), p. 86-177;
Carol Andrews, Amulets of Ancient Egypt (London, British Museum Press, 1994), p. 10, 43-44; see fig. 46 for several shapes of the eye;
W. M. Flinders Petrie, Amulets, Illustrated by the Egyptian Collection in University College, London (London, Constable, 1914), p. 9, 32-34, pls. XXIV-XXV;
G.A. Reisner, Amulets (Catalogue general des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée du Caire) (Le Caire, Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 1907), p. 73-89, nos. 5740-5847; pls. V-VI;
Geraldine Pinch, Magic in Ancient Egypt (London, British Museum Press, 1994), p. 109-110.
Third Intermediate Period, 11th-7th century B.C.
Length 5.5 cm, height 4.5 cm.
Dutch private collection W.F.; before that with Bonhams London, 26 April 2001, lot 204; before that French private collection; comes with the original export licence, issued by the French Ministry of Culture on 3 January 2001.
Intact with only one small area (2.5 mm long and shallow) of (ancient) damage to the glazed surface, on the side of the eye so not visible from the front except for a very minuscule dent, less than half a mm so hardly noticeable to the naked eye; some discoloration that has occurred with age and some encrustation, all as shown; much of the original warm blue colour shining through.