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Work Royal and divine triad
Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs
Royal and divine triad
© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps
Religious and funerary beliefs
The three statues, carved from a single block of granite, stand in a traditional side-by-side position. The god Osiris is portrayed in the center, holding scepters and wrapped in a shroud, with the falcon-headed god Horus on one side and the symmetrical representation of a king on the other. This monument bears no inscriptions, but is attributed to a 19th-Dynasty king -perhaps Ramesses II, or Merneptah.
The three figures are represented standing in a frontal position. They were carved from a single block of granite, and stand out in high relief against the back slab and base. They take up the whole block (their equal dimensions having been calculated to fit its width); this suggests perfect mastery of the Egyptian esthetic canon at the time when the granite was extracted from the Aswan quarries. This heterogeneous volcanic rock was a favorite material for the manufacture of temple statues, chosen for its hardness and because it takes a high polish. There are still traces of a black resinous material, but we do not know whether this covered the whole work at some stage in its history.
The hieratic attitude of the statues is typical of Old Kingdom triads. Osiris is portrayed in the center, his body wrapped in a shroud, holding his two scepters, the crook and the whip, and wearing the tall atef crown trimmed with feathers. He is flanked by the falcon-headed god Horus and the symmetrically placed king. The latter have their left foot forward; both wear the same clothes and the same crown (of Upper and Lower Egypt), to demonstrate their resemblance and common identity. The king, however, has a pleated nemes headdress in addition to his crown; according to a specific code, this composite headdress suggests a "divine king" (like Amun-Re). The king's face identifies him with Osiris, and his gesture and crown identify him with Horus, so the triad actually represents three aspects of the Sun god Re. According to Egyptian mythology, the sun god rose in the morning as Horus, shone at midday as Amon-Re, and set as Osiris. The statues therefore represent three facets of a single reality.
Which king is this?
Despite the lack of inscriptions (which were usually engraved on the back slab and base), the elongated figures and slender limbs suggest a Ramesside king. The youthful faces are characterized by wide mouths and small eyes, accentuated by heavy eyelids. Osiris's usekh collar and the pleated clothes are finely engraved, but otherwise no particular attention was paid to the relief work. Comparison with similar monuments has enabled us to attribute this triad either to the famous Ramesses II, Egypt's greatest builder, or to his son Merneptah, who was represented in a very similar group in Abydos.
- Les Pharaons, catalogue de l’exposition, Venise, 2002, p. 411, notice n° 62.
- DELANGE E., Egito faraonico terra des deuses, catalogue de l’exposition, Sao Paulo 2001, p. 36-37, notice n° 2.
Royal and divine triad
New Kingdom, 19th dynasty, 1279-1203 BC
Sculpture in the round, granite
H. 1.34 m; W. 0.78 m
Purchased in 1818
The god Osiris between his falcon-headed son Horus and a king
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See the related mini-site The Gates of Heaven: Visions of the World in Ancient Egypt