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Work Door lintel

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: From the late prehistoric period to the late Middle Kingdom (circa 3800 - 1710 BC)

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Door lintel

© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
From the late prehistoric period to the late Middle Kingdom (circa 3800 - 1710 BC)

Author(s):
Chloé Ragazzoli, Geneviève Pierrat-Bonnefois

This lintel was found in 1927 by F. Bisson de la Roque, in the temple dedicated to the god Montu at Medamud, in Upper Egypt. It had been re-used in the foundations of the current temple and was lying face down on the ground, which explains the excellent state of preservation of the delicate relief. It entered the Louvre in 1930 subsequent to the division of excavation finds. It represents a complete and exemplary scene of a king making an offering to a god.

Allotted places within the temple

This lintel originally surmounted the door of an offerings storeroom. It corresponds to a very strict layout, with two almost identical scenes represented on either side of the central axis. The work is framed by the hieroglyphic signs representing the earth and the sky. In the center are two symmetrical representations of the king Sesostris III holding out offerings to the god "Montu, lord of Thebes." The pharaoh is protected by the winged sun disk, which the hieroglyphs name "Horus of Edfu." The respective positions of the king and god are exceptional: the god usually featured in the center of the lintel, and was thus situated inside the temple (his home), while the king was shown entering from outside. This reversal was no doubt due to the fact that the offerings storeroom was outside the temple.

An exchange between a king and a god

The god is portrayed with a falcon's head, crowned with two tall feathers adorned with a double uraeus. He wears a pleated kilt with an animal's tail, and holds the Was scepter (symbol of power) and the ankh sign (symbol of life). One of the differences between the two images is that the pharaoh on the left (wearing a shendyt kilt) is offering a small conical loaf of bread, whereas the figure on the right is holding out a cake. The columns of text in front of the god represent his speech: "I give you all health and all joy as Ra", "I give you all life and power, all stabililty as Ra." This daily exchange within the temple ensured that the god was satisfied, the king powerful, and the world's equilibrium maintained. In his temple at Medamud, the mission of the warrior god Montu was to protect the north of Thebes.

Portraits of Sesostris III

This is a fundamental scene of worship - and a rigorous, elegant composition, carved in hollow relief. The sculptor skillfully chiselled the pure outlines of the hieroglyphs and the sinewy musculature of the figures' legs. The realism of the king's face is particularly striking for the attentive observer. In the words of two Egyptologists (E. Drioton and P. du Bourguet), the scene resembles "a summary of the life of the king, who is portrayed on one side in the bloom of youth and on the other with signs of age on his face." The association of these two chronological moments on the same relief constitutes a message that one can attempt to interpret. On this official monument, it is necessarily a positive evocation of the king's life cycle. The king's features are individualized, as they are on the other statues of Sesotris III on display in the same room - some of which portray him as a young man, others in his maturity (lien cartel). Perhaps the sculptor was suggesting that the king represented the virtues of every age.

Bibliography

- ZIEGLER Ch., BOVOT J.-L., Art et archéologie : L’Egypte ancienne,  Ecole du Louvre / Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux / Documentation française, Paris, 2001, p. 156-157, fig. 66.

- MARUEJOL F., L’Art égyptien au Louvre, Scala, Paris, 1991, p. 60, 62, 75.

- BOURGUET P. (du), DRIOTON E., Les Pharaons à la conquête de l’Art, Paris, 1965, p. 172-175, fig. 38.

Technical description

  • Door lintel

    Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, reign of Sesostris III (1862-1843 BC)

    Found in the temple at Medamud, Upper Egypt

  • Limestone

    H. 1.07 m; W. 2.26 m

  • Division of excavation finds, 1930

    Sesostris III offering bread to Montu

    E 13983

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    The Middle Kingdom, c. 2033–1710 BC
    Room 23

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