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Work Statue of Wahibre, governor of Upper Egypt
Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs
Wahibre, governor of Upper Egypt
© 2008 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet
Religious and funerary beliefs
The 26th Dynasty (664-525 BC) was marked by intense artistic activity which is well exemplified by this statue of the high dignitary Wahibre. He came from the capital Sais, in the western Delta, where this sleek and elegant statue was dedicated to him in the temple of the goddess Neith, patroness of the city.
A native of Sais
The inscription on the front identifies the figure: his Excellence, the governor of Upper Egypt, in charge of the transfer of offerings, governor of the domains (of the goddess Neith), blessed of Neith. On the back of the statue, two columns of text detail his religious and administrative titles, together with a consecration formula for the statue. Some ten statues of Wahibre have been found, and fragments of his sarcophagus indicate that he was buried in his home town of Sais, capital of the kingdom of Egypt during the 26th Dynasty.
A massive yet graceful sculpture
This highly polished dark diorite statue represents a man seated on the ground, his knees raised in front of him, his arms folded and his hands laid flat. The figure literally blends into the block of stone - only the head emerges, but the smooth, rounded hairstyle does not detract from the compact unity of the whole. The hair is drawn back behind particularly well defined ears. The facial features are precise, and although the nose has been broken, prominent eyebrows, cheekbones, and a dimple are still perceptible. The groove in the upper lip accentuates the mouth. The figure's overall expression is serious.
The body is wrapped in a cloak which covers but does not conceal its form. The elbows, arms, and hands are visible and the curve of the legs can be traced; the body seems about to appear. Thus, despite its compact form, this statue has no rigidity and is, on the contrary, an elegant and fluid work.
A consecrated temple statue
There has been some debate as to the significance of this posture. Does it represent the deceased as a guardian sitting at the temple door, or his submission to a superior, or his rebirth as the sun crosses overhead? These "block" statues were found both in temples and in tombs. In temples, they enabled the deceased to participate in the daily worship of the god and thereby obtain his protection and eternal life. The food that was offered at the god's table every day was subsequently served to the statues of individuals. In tombs, these statues were part of the funerary cult, during which eternal life was ensured through the prayers and offerings of relatives and priests. This formal innovation originated in the Middle Kingdom, and was long-lived (as is indicated by this statue of Wahibre); it is therefore possible that its function evolved over the years. A particular, rather obscure formula on this work (often found on the back pillars of statues from this period) placed the figure under the direct protection of the gods without the traditional intervention of the pharaoh.
Wahibre, governor of Upper Egypt
C. 550-525 BC (end of 26th Dynasty)
H. 1.02 m; W. 0.45 m; D. 0.66 m
Gift of La Turbie
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See the related mini-site The Gates of Heaven: Visions of the World in Ancient Egypt