Sunday, August 10, 2014

Museum Pieces - Kneeling Amenhotep III as the god Neferhotep

Kneeling Amenhotep III as the god Neferhotep

Photocredit: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Height x width x depth: 13 x 3.8 x 5.3 cm (5 1/8 x 1 1/2 x 2 1/16 in.)

Glazed steatite



1390–1352 B.C.

There is more to this charming statuette of Amenhotep III than meets the eye. The king is wide-eyed, innocent-looking, and decidedly chubby, his bare chest revealing his baby fat. But despite his youthful appearance, Amenhotep III was no child when this statue was created, for it is one of a number of closely related statuettes made in celebration of the king's thirty-year jubilee. Thirty years symbolized a generation, and during the celebration of the jubilee, the king was born again. Amenhotep III would have been at least in his forties at the time, but he appears as a child in token of his spiritual rebirth. The inscription on the back of the statuette calls Amenhotep III, "the son of Isis, who dwells in Edfu," so presumably the figure was placed in the temple of Edfu as an offering to Isis. True to his name, the king kneels to present an offering, now lost, to his mother.

The statuette's distinctive headdress - a round curly wig with uraeus, surmounted by the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt - identifies the ruler with the child god Neferhotep. The crowns were meant to confer stability, while implicit in any child god is the prospect of a new beginning full of promise. The statuette is thus a visual pun, and even the color added to its symbolism. Originally, the figure was glazed a lustrous blue-green, now almost entirely worn away. In ancient Egypt as today, to be green meant to be young; in ancient Egyptian, the words for "green" and "to be young," renput and renpy, had the same root. Additional meaning is provided by the word for glazed material, tjehenet, "dazzling, luminous," which was also applied to sunlight, and by extension, to gold. In this image of himself as the child god Neferhotep, Amenhotep III - who liked to call himself the "dazzling sun-disk of all lands" - found the perfect form of self-expression.


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