Despite being battered by the last few thousand years this statue still manages to convey a sense of solid power and grandeur. Not just aesthetically, either – having the ability to command the skilled labour necessary to make the statue is a statement of power in itself.
I don’t know much about it other than that it was in the Cairo Museum in 2016 when I visited. I think it’s Old Kingdom in date, in part because it was near other Old Kingdom material and in part because the throne arms have similarities to those of the statue of Khafre near it.
And again I make the assumption it’s a king because of the power involved in its creation and the similarity of those lion chair arms.
I love the grace and elegance of this vase. Both the physical form of it, and the line of crocodiles spiralling up the side while the hippos sit more chaotically next to them interspersed with zigzag lines that are presumably representing the water these creatures live in.
I say “vase” because if something like this was in my house that’s what it’d be used as – a decorative centrepiece with some flowers in it. But that’s probably not what the person it was made for did with it. Maybe it contained drink, or some food stuff?
I don’t have much information about this object, but I think it’s from the Naqada I or early Naqada II periods – so some 500 to 1000 years before Egypt was unified in 3000BCE. A beautiful survivor of what was clearly a sophisticated and rich culture in the deep past.
It’s in the Cairo Museum (or at least it was in 2016 when I visited) but I don’t know the accession number or the provenance.
Meritamun was one of the daughters of Ramesses II and this partial statue was found in her father’s mortuary temple, the Ramesseum. The thing that makes her significant amongst his many daughters is that after the death of Nefertari she took on the role of King’s Great Wife.
She’s a well protected Queen – not just two uraeus serpents on her forehead, but a whole collection encircling the base of her headdress. This headdress would once have had a sun disk on top with two large plumes.
The colour has lasted well, you can see the wig would once have been blue for instance and the pink that her lips are picked out in is still present. It has a delicate beauty as it survives now, but would once have been almost garishly bright – a reminder that that tastes change!
It’s now in the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square, Cairo – or at least it was in 2016. Acc. No.: JE31413/CG600
This man is part of a row of men who each are bringing food for the deceased person who had this relief in their tomb. Most of the servants bring a large bird, or a leg of beef, but this guy is an overachiever – a leg of beef AND 7 (small) birds!
The production of this relief is an odd mix of careful and slapdash work. The carving looks carefully done, to a well composed design. There’s nice detail on the hair and in the hieroglyphs, and I particularly like the way the birds are shown.
But then the painter has come along and slapped red paint on the figure without worrying about the edges. Except that he’s taken more care to not get skin colour on the beef or the kilt. Very odd. Perhaps the commissioner died so they finished it off in a hurry?
This piece is in the Cairo Museum (or was in 2016) but I know nothing else about it – I think it’s probably Old Kingdom in date, based on where it was in the museum (near other Old Kingdom stuff) and my amateur assessment of style!
Moving statues and other artifacts from place to place in Egypt has been getting a lot of press over the last few years, as the Egyptian government open new museums and redistribute their Ancient Egyptian collection between them. But this is nothing new!
This double statue was found in Tanis – a city in the Nile Delta that doesn’t seem to’ve existed before the 19th Dynasty (c. 1300 BCE). But the statue itself dates back to the Middle Kingdom, and the reign of Amenemhat III (c. 1800 BCE).
The two figures are Amenemhat III (recognisable by his facial features, even tho rather battered) as a Nile God – bringer of fertility and food to the land. The text on it has the cartouches of the 21st Dynasty king Psusennes I (who probably installed it at Tanis, his capital).
As of 2016 it was in the Cairo Museum, acc. no.: JE18221, I don’t know if it’s been moved in the grand re-organisation.
I like looking at the figured ostraca in museums, because you see such a wide variety of art. Some are clearly practice pieces for larger work, some are doodles and quick sketches, some are humorous in various styles. I think this piece falls into that last category.
The chap who’s being bitten by the lion is clearly not Egyptian you can tell that by his hat and his hair. So the humour is mostly “tee-hee look at the foreigner being eaten by a lion!”.
But it also reminds me of how Mesopotamian kings are often shown killing lions – is this also a political cartoon, mocking the king of another country? “Hah! Calls himself lion killer, lion food more like!”.
I’m not sure where or when this piece is from, but it’s now in the Cairo Museum. I haven’t been able to find an accession number for it though.
Amarna period art can often look alien and bizarre, but this scene also has a sense of elegance and grace. Akhenaten and Nefertiti stand beneath the rays of the Aten making offerings, serenely receiving the gifts the Aten bestows on them.
Quite a lot of paint survives, enough to let us picture how it would’ve looked. The couple clearly made a matching pair – not the same, but complementary. Both wear blue crowns, Akhenaten’s is what we refer to as “the blue crown” and Nefertiti wears her distinctive headdress.
They both receive life from the hands of the god at the ends of the rays coming from the sun disk (which I’ve cropped out of this image). They are both also being patted on the head, which I think is to do with conveying the idea that their crowns were bestowed by the god.
And the hands of the god also reach out to the offerings that Akhenaten proffers – he’s pouring water (or perhaps some other liquid) into vessels into which the hands reach.
This is the decoration on the facade of a small shrine or altar which was found in the house of Panehsy at Amarna and it’s now in the Cairo Museum (JE65041). The whole facade looks a bit like a pylon of a temple.
This statue represents the 4th Dynasty king Khafre who was the builder of the second pyramid at Giza. It was found by Auguste Mariette, in 1860, in Khafre’s Valley Temple near the Great Sphinx. It’s now in the Cairo Museum (acc. no.: JE10062 or CG14).
It’s quite a large piece – 168cm (5’5″) tall and as the king is seated it’s larger than life size. This is quite the contrast to the only known statue of Khufu (Khafre’s father, and builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza) which is tiny.
I’ve taken the photo from this angle to show the falcon Horus who sits behind the king’s head as an emblem of his kingship and as his protector. I also like the way you can see how the nemes headdress stands out from his head and curves around his ear.
This stela caught my eye in the Cairo Museum (acc. no.: JE45626) because of the vibrant colours and the rather unusual postures of the figures for a piece of Egyptian art. It dates to the early Middle Kingdom, so around 4000 years ago.
I found a paper by Lucas Baqué-Manzano about this stela which discusses the figures and what the scene means. On the right is Hepyt, the wife of the deceased who seems to be presenting the offerings. And the other three are her husband Intef and his parents Amenemhat and Iy.
Which way round the men are appears to be a matter of debate, but Baqué-Manzano suggests that it is recently deceased Intef on the right, meeting his previously deceased parents in an illustration of one of Coffin Texts.
CT146 calls itself “Assembling a Man’s Family for Him in the Necropolis”, and this is what Baqué-Manzano thinks is going on here. The joyous reunion of a family in the afterlife, with plenty of food.
One of the striking things about the hieroglyphic script is that each sign can be made into a work of art in its own right. This is single sign from a longer text, it’s a quail chick hieroglyph, which we transliterate with the letter “w” and it would be pronounced “oo”.
It’s roughly 10cm from beak to feet, and the artist has spent some time making it as good as he can. It’s incised into the limestone in sunk relief, then extra details have been carved into the overall form like the wings. And finally it’s been painted in multiple colours.
And each hieroglyph in the text has been treated to the same sort of care, the whole thing must’ve been stunning. It’s possibly from the tomb of Montuemhat, who was Mayor of Thebes when it was sacked by the Assyrians in 663BCE and was in charge of rebuilding it afterwards.