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Work Sennefer, the king's head clerk, and his wife, Hatshepsut

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

Sény(néfer), chef de bureau du roi, et sa femme

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

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

Author(s):
Aït-Kaci Lili

Sennefer and his wife Hatshepsut lived in Thebes during a stable and prosperous era of the New Kingdom: the reign of Amenophis II. The sculptor clearly attempted to create portraits of these two leading court figures. Hatshepsut is a large figure, while Sennefer has a thinner face with more delicate features. The back pillar has an offering formula, indicating that this is a funerary monument.

A high-ranking Theban couple

Only fragments of the group, which was sculpted form a single block of sandstone, remain today. It represents a couple from the upper crust of the Theban society, during the reign of Amenophis II: Sennefer, majordomo in the royal palace and wab-priest at the Temple of Amun, and his wife, Hatshepsut, a singer of Amun. They are seated close to one another and each has an arm around the other's waist. The formula on the back pillar provides the original context of this monument: the chapel of offerings in their tomb in the Theban necropolis.

Rewards and jewelry

They are adorned with wigs and jewels. Sennefer is wearing a wig over his short natural hair; sideburns are visible by his temples. This headdress, with long locks that leave the earlobes, neck, and shoulders visible, sets off the "reward necklace" made of two rows of gold disks. The sovereign gave these necklaces to high-ranking dignitaries during a official public ceremony, as a mark of royal recognition.
Hatshepsut's ample wig consists of wide locks, which end in braids. Three braids in the back conceal the knot of the decorative floral ribbon, which lightens this imposing headdress. The colors of the necklace around her décolleté indicate that it was made of lapis lazuli, turquoise, cornelian, and gold wire.

Development of the funerary text

The sculptor and painter who made this monument followed the essential conventions of their trades in terms of proportions, colors and poses, but they added a personal touch and gave these figures an individual identity. They depicted Hatshepsut with full cheeks and tapered black eye makeup; and gave Sennefer prominent cheekbones and thick blue lines.
During the Old Kingdom, images and writing were two aspects of the same mode of expression. Over time, writing became independent. Written elements (names and titles) were no longer placed only on bases and seats, but were inscribed on back pillars and even on clothing and on figures themselves. By the New Kingdom, the inscribed surfaces had become quite extensive and included more varied texts. The names and functions of the figures were, of course, still indicated, but the text of the funerary offering was often elaborate, with an invocation of several deities, such as for this couple, who called on Amun-Ra, Osiris, Ptah, Anubis, Hathor, and "all the gods in the necropolis," so as not to forget any of them.

Bibliography

Catalogue, Parfums et cosmétiques dans l'Égypte ancienne, 2002, p. 48, p. 131.
Collectif, Les Collections du Louvre, 1999, pp. 112-113.
Desroches-Noblecourt, Rev. Louvre, 1979, n 4, pp. 280-290.
Pierrat-Bonnefois, L'Égypte au Louvre, 1997, p. 27, p. 32.
Ziegler et Rutschowscaya, Le Louvre, les antiquités égyptiennes, 2002, p. 52.

Technical description

  • Sény(néfer), chef de bureau du roi, et sa femme

  • grès peint

    H. : 68 cm. ; l. : 85 cm.

  • E 27161

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    The New Kingdom
    Room 24
    Vitrine 08 : Les contemporains d'Aménophis II

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