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Work Statue of Nakhthorheb kneeling in prayer
Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs
© 2008 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps
Religious and funerary beliefs
This is a statue of Nakhthorheb, an important dignitary from the Late Period in Egyptian art. He is represented kneeling, his hands flat on his thighs, in an attitude of reverence. The text inscribed on the statue is a prayer to Thoth, god of the cities of Hermopolis and Dendera.
A 26th Dynasty aristocrat
Like most Egyptian high officials of the Pharaonic Period, Nakhthorheb held many civil and religious offices simultaneously. Monuments in his name are conserved in Rome, London, Cairo, and Copenhagen. His various duties are listed on the back pillar of this statue, interspersed with grandiose titles: "His Excellency the 'Unique Friend,' director of the palace, secretary of the House-of-the-Morning, director of the castles, chief lector-priest, officer to the crown, director of every divine function, head of magi in the House-of-Life," etc. He lived during the reign of Psammetichus II (595-589 BC) in the 26th Dynasty. Egypt was ruled by native kings in those days, after a series of political setbacks: domination by Sudanese and Nubian rulers (25th Dynasty) and a cruel invasion by the Assyrians (in 666 BC). The Egyptian élite was thus in search of its roots.
An archaistic style
In the field of art, reference is often made to the grandeur and simplicity of the heroic period of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The larger-than-life statue of Nakhthorheb is in keeping with this tradition. Masculine beauty is expressed through simplicity of form; the focus of attention appears to have been the torso, which is the only part treated with tempered realism. The desire for simple, strong volumes is also apparent in the lack of detail in the clothing: the kilt is only visible above the knees and the smooth headdress seems to merge into the forehead and the back pillar.
This quest for simplicity went beyond ancient models, and the archaistic trend became a style of its own. The facial type with its slightly receding rounded chin and gentle, inexpressive smile corresponds to a model that first appeared during the 26th Dynasty and remained in use until the Roman conquest.
Under the protection of Thoth
From the Middle Kingdom onward, the public areas of certain temples contained small private chapels; consequently, more and more personalities were granted the privilege of having a statue of themselves in temple courtyards. This royal favor enabled them to enjoy the protective proximity of their divine patron. They were even presented with the leftovers from the god's table, which was garnished every day by the priests. The inscription around the base of the statue of Nakhthorheb tells us that it was placed in the temple of the god Thoth, "lord of Hermopolis and Dendera," and the great patron of writing. Nakhthorheb was therefore entrusted to the god's protection in his lifetime, then for eternity.
- ANDREU G., RUTSCHOWSCAYA M. H., ZIEGLER C., L’Egypte au Louvre, Hachette, Paris, 1997, p. 185-186, 255, notice n° 92.
- ZIEGLER C., BOVOT J.-L., Art et archéologie : L’Egypte ancienne, Ecole du Louvre, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Documentation française, Paris, 2001, p. 264-265, fig. 159.
Reign of Psamtek II (595-589 BC), 26th Dynasty
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