Who is this guy?
This is a statue of Senenmut, a powerful official during the rule of Hatshepsut. He is kneeling which is a pose of worship and prayer. The combination of this pose and the symbolism of all the images together petition for Hatshepsut's well being, and for Senenmut's own eternal reward.
The symbol you see, a cobra resting on a pair of upraised arms and crowned with a cow's horns and a sun disk. All together these symbols create a specific message. It is identified in the inscription as Renenutet, a goddess of harvest and nourishment. However, it can also be read as a cryptogram for Maatkara, Hatshepsut's throne name—a visual pun made possible by the close relationship between Egyptian hieroglyphic writing and art.
Do you have any pieces that have to do with Hatshepsut in the Egyptian exhibit?
Absolutely! In our "Early Egypt" gallery, we have a stellar carved head we believe represents the famous female pharaoh! When you find it, look around for the statues of Senenmut and Ahmose, who were officials during her reign.
Found it! Thank you!
Many of the kingly cartouches on Ahmose's statue have clearly been erased and recarved to now display the names of Thutmose III and Thutmose I. This strongly suggests that all of the rewritten cartouches originally displayed names of Hatshepsut. As you may or may not know, one of the great riddles of Egyptology is why her ultimate successor, Thutmose III, ordered her name to be erased from history in such a manner. You can still see the erasures on the works themselves!
Why would someone make a statue of a government official?
Government officials could commission the statues themselves! Some were made for tombs, where the statue of a deceased was part of the funerary equipment.
This particular official commissioned at least twenty five statues of himself, a number to be placed in temples.
Did he want people to worship him or was it just ego?
In Senenmut's specific circumstances, he rose from a working class family to the role of one of the most influential officials in the country, a feat he was very proud of. He also had very little family and no children of his own so he felt he needed many statues to remind people of him.
This piece is extraordinary!
Extraordinary indeed! The subject, Senenmut rose from obscurity to a position of tremendous power during the reign of Hatshepsut. He is shown here in a statue that perfectly illustrates the realationship between art and language in ancient Egypt.
The symbol he is holding spells out Maat-ka-re which was the throne name of Hatshepsut. His pose is one of donation and the angle of each of his arms forms the hieroglyph for giving.
Yes, I knew about Senemut & Hatshepsut, but not the detail of his arms, which is captivating. This was an extraordinary civilization, very sophisticated in official propaganda!
Absolutely! Works from the time of Senenmut were especially innovative too. He is said to invented several rebuses for Hatshepsut's name including the one seen here.
Tell me more.
This is a statue of Senenmut. He was a powerful official during the rule of Hatshepsut, one of Egypt's most powerful female pharaohs.
The kneeling position is one of worship and prayer. The symbol he is holding in front of him actually spells out Maat-ka-re, the throne name of Hatshepsut.
This statue is a great example of the relationship between art and language in ancient Egypt.