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Work The goddess Hathor welcomes Sethos I

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

The goddess Hathor welcomes Sethos I

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Author(s):
Lili Aït-Kaci

This bas-relief comes from the tomb of Sethos I - the largest in the Valley of the Kings. The goddess Hathor is shown welcoming the king: she clasps his hand, and holds out her necklace as a symbol of her protection. Thebes was the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom, and the goddess played an important role in the necropolis area, welcoming the dead and accompanying them into the afterlife. The traditional hieratic quality of Egyptian drawing is tempered by a certain softness here.

Lady of the West

This bas-relief, enhanced with a rich polychromy, was part of the decoration of the tomb of King Sethos I, carved into the cliffs in the Valley of the Kings, west of Thebes. The goddess Hathor, Lady of the West (the underworld), welcomes Sethos into her domain. She holds out her menat necklace as a symbol of her protection, and takes his hand. The rigorous symmetry of this face-to-face encounter is softened by the attitudes of the two figures. Hathor stands straight and still, whereas the king seems to be moving, leaning slightly toward her, his legs in a walking position. Both figures are named by the hieroglyphs inscribed on the upper part of the relief. Their functions and qualities are confirmed by specific attributes: on the goddess's wig are the horns of a cow (her sacred animal) and a solar disk (she is the daughter of Ra), while the royal uraeus cobra stands out in front of the king's forehead.

An echo of the Amarna style

This scene corresponds to the strict conventions of traditional drawing, yet there are traces of the Amarna style that prevailed fifty years before in the design of the hands, the flowing strands of the king's wig, and his sandal-clad feet (shown in "true profile").
The characters' finery reflects the refinement and elegance of the art from this period: Hathor's sophisticated headdress, the flow of her tunic, the lightness and transparency of the king's clothing. The jewelry has the colors of the precious materials from which it was made: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and carnelian.

Champollion

During Champollion's expedition to Egypt with the Italian Rossellini, he removed this relief (which was already somewhat damaged) from the tomb of Sethos I, and brought it back to the Louvre. Unfortunately, his untimely death in 1832 prevented him from seeing it restored and exhibited in his Egyptian department at the Musée Charles X (link history of the Palais).

Bibliography

C. Barbotin, fiche Visite, Louvre, Dépt Antiquités égyptiennes, salle 27
Christiane Ziegler, Jean-Luc Bovot, L'Egypte ancienne, 2001, Réunion des musées nationaux, pp. 226, 227
G. Aandreu, M.-H. Rutschowscaya, C. Ziegler, L'Egypte ancienne au Louvre, 1997, Hachette, pp. 137-140, 253
Pierrat, L'Egypte au Louvre, 1998, Réunion des musées nationaux, p. 36
Collectif, Le monde de la Bible, 1992, n. 78, p. 19
Ridley, Chr. d'Eg., Lettre de Champollion au moment de la découpe du relief, 1991, t. 66, n. 131, pp. 23-30

Technical description

  • The goddess Hathor welcomes Sethos I

    New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, reign of Sethos I (1290-1279 BC)

    Thebes, Valley of the Kings, tomb of Sethos I

    Thebes, Valley of the Kings, tomb of Sethos I

  • Bas-relief, painted limestone

    H. 2.26 m; W. 1.05 m

  • Purchased 1829

    B 7

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    The New Kingdom
    Room 27

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