Sunday, April 20, 2014

Museum Pieces - Head of Nectanebo II

Head of Nectanebo II

Egyptian, Late Period, Dynasty 30, reign of Nectanebo II, 362–343 B.C.

height x width x depth 31 x 24.5 x 24 cm (11 13/16 x 9 5/8 x 9 7/16 in.)




Egypt: Late Period Gallery - 216

This superb portrait of Egypt’s last native pharaoh is the product of three thousand years’ expertise in carving hard stone. The volumes of his helmet-shaped crown — the Blue Crown, or khepresh, are sleek and streamlined, almost aerodynamic. The artist reveled in the mottled texture of the stone, and polished it to a glistening sheen in a painstaking process reserved for the most important statues. 

Nectanebo II was known as the favorite of the gods, renowned for his piety, devotion to the sacred animal cults, lavish gifts of land, restoration of cult statues, and founding of new temples. Thirty sites from the Delta to Elephantine and as far west as Siwa attest to his extraordinary building activity: fourteen completely new structures plus extensions to existing sanctuaries and gifts of temple furniture. Such expenditures would have been remarkable at any time but were particularly so when the country was under constant threat of invasion from the Persians. 

In 343 B.C. Nectanebo II was defeated by the Persians. Nothing is known of his death. Legend has it that he escaped to Macedonia. A skilled magician, he appeared to Queen Olympias in her bedchamber disguised as her husband Philip, and sired the future Alexander the Great. It is certain that he was honored under the Ptolemies, for whom he provided an ideal role model as pharaoh. A cult that worshipped Nectanebo II as a divine falcon, the epitome of kingship, persisted at least until the reign of Ptolemy IV.


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