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Work Statue of the goddess Sekhmet

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs

Statue of the goddess Sekhmet

© 2006 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
Religious and funerary beliefs

Author(s):
Elisabeth Delange

This colossal seated statue represents the goddess Sekhmet, "the powerful," with a woman's body and a lion's head. Mane and hair meld together harmoniously beneath the solar disk and uraeus-cobra. A carved inscription on the front of the seat refers to "Amenophis III, beloved of the goddess." It is the finest statue of its kind at the Louvre.

A masterpiece

So numerous were statues of the goddess Sekhmet that the great Egyptological museums of the world all have at least one. Carved from a monolithic block of dark diorite, this is one of a number of colossal size. It is of high quality - in its workmanship, in the detail of the head and in the decoration of the seat. In the 19th century, the work was very carefully restored by the insertion of the new stone visible on the leg and corner of the chair on the right. On the front of the seat was carved a symmetrical inscription: "Amenophis III, beloved of the Great Sekhmet, who gives him life for eternity." The Comte de Forbin, who acquired it in the 19th century, marked his good fortune by having his own name inscribed on the back pillar.

Dual personality

The goddess wears a smoothly close-fitting dress extending down to the ankles and over this an usekh collar. Far from suggesting monstrosity, the statue is highly successful in the way that the mane, spread out like a ruff around the lion's muzzle, melds into the woman's hair. On the head is the solar disk with the uraeus springing from it. Her ambivalent appearance well expresses the double nature and changeable temperament of the goddess, who can be savage and redoubtable in anger, but also acts as protectress of Egypt and its pharaoh when appeased. This is how she is shown here, seated on a decorated throne and holding in her left hand the ankh, the symbol of life.

A royal program

Amenophis III had a vast number of statues of Sekhmet sculpted for his "Temple of Millions of Years" on the West Bank of Thebes. Later dispersed and reused in different Egyptian shrines, these hundreds of statues suggest the hypothesis that the temple had two series of 365 statues each. The daily rites performed before each statue followed the movement of the stars and the course of the sun. The Nile Valley depended for its equilibrium on these natural phenomena, whose regularity Amenophis III believed himself to be responsible for maintaining. This is why, so as to protect the empire, he amassed this wealth of statues in stone.

Bibliography

Catalogue de l'exposition Aménophis III, le Pharaon soleil, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1993, p. 189.

Technical description

  • Statue of the goddess Sekhmet

    New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenophis III (1391-1353 BC)

    Karnak, Temple of Mut

  • Sculpture in diorite

    H. 2.29 m; W. 0.61 m; D. 1.05 m

  • Purchased from the Comte de Forbin, 1817

    A 2

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    The temple
    Room 12

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