Saturday, July 29, 2017

Middle Kingdom Royal Statues

Fig. 1 - Senwosret III (British Museum)
Fig. 2 - Senwosret III (detail)
     Middle Kingdom royal statuary is very different from Old Kingdom royal statues. In the Old Kingdom the king is shown with a serene, almost superior look on his face. He can handle any and all problems and nothing could possibly go wrong.

Fig. 4 - Senwosret III
Fig. 3 - Senwosret III (Brooklyn Museum)
     The First Intermediate Period shattered this illusion. Things could go badly wrong and the Pharaoh was far from infallible. As a result, royal statues from the Middle Kingdom often show the king with a care-worn expression on his face, almost as if the difficulties of his office are overly stressful even for a living god like the Pharaoh. A good example of this is a statue of Senwosret III (figures 1 and 2) that was found at Dier el-Bahri in the temple of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep (who re-unified Egypt and brought the First Intermediate Period to an end). This statue, with its downturned mouth and tired looking eyes, shows the King as a weary figure dealing with the tremendous responsibility of managing his kingdom.

     The statue in figures 3 and 4 once again shows the Pharaoh Senwosret III. The statue does harken back to the famous statue of Khafre (4th Dynasty) that is now in the Cairo Museum by showing the King seated on his throne, wearing a Nemes headdress and a "kilt". But Khafre is shown with a quietly confident look on his face, while this statue of Senwosret is strikingly different in that it shows the King once-again as careworn and almost sad.

     Another change in royal statuary is the appearance of statues carved on a colossal scale (I am not aware of a truly colossal statue dating to the Old Kingdom). The head shown in figure 5 is part of a statue found in Bubastis. The lower portion of the statue is carved with the name of Osorkon II (Dynasty 22), but the style of the face marks this piece of art as a representation of Amenemhat II. Not the deeply carved eyes which would have had insets placed in to represent the royal eyes.

Fig. 5 - Head of Amenemhat III, British Museum