April 15, 2012

Amenhotep III and peak of artistic achievement

A peak of artistic achievement
Some magnificent statuary dates from the reign of Amenhotep III, such as the two outstanding couchant rose granite lions originally set before the temple at Soleb in Nubia (but subsequently removed to the temple at Gebel Barkal further south in the Sudan). There is also a proliferation of private statues, particularly of the architect Amenhotep son of Hapu, but also of many other nobles and dignitaries.

Amenhotep III and Red Granite lion
It is in the great series of royal portraits, however, that the sculptor's art is truly seen. Largest of them all (after the Colossi of Memnon) is the huge limestone statue of the king and queen with three small standing princesses from Medinet Habu. There are many other representations of the king, all of which project the contemplative, almost ethereal, aspect of the king's features. Magnificently worked black granite seated statues of Amenhotep wearing the nemes headdress have come from excavations behind the Colossi of Memnon (by Belzoni) and from Tanis in the Delta. A number of statues of the king were reworked by later rulers, often by simply adding their cartouches, or occasionally altering the features or aspects of the body, as with the huge red granite head hitherto identified as being Tuthmosis III from Karnak (also found by Belzoni) and reworked by Ramses II (now in the British Museum). Several portraits in statues, reliefs and wall paintings show the king wearing the helmet-like khepresh, the so-called Blue or War Crown.

The Khepresh crown
One of the most incredible finds of statuary in recent years was made in the courtyard of the Amenhotep III colonnade of the Luxor temple in 1989. It included a superb 6-ft (1.83-m) high pink quartzite statue of the king standing on a sledge and wearing the Double Crown. The only damage the statue had sustained was under Akhenaten when, very carefully, the hated name of Amun was removed from the cartouches where it appeared as part of the king's name. The inscriptions on the statue and its iconography suggest that it is a work from late in the reign, despite the idealized youthful features of the king. It may possibly have been a cult statue.

The two most widely known portraits of Queen Tiy are the small ebony head in Berlin which, in the past, caused many authorities to suggest that she came from south of Aswan, and the petite-faced and crowned head found by Petrie at the temple of Serabit el-Khadim in Sinai which is identified as the queen by her cartouche on the front of her crown. Other fine reliefs of her come from the tombs of some of the courtiers in her service such as Userhet (TT 47) and Kheruef (TT 192).

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