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Work Statuette of Taharqa and the Falcon God

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The final Pharaonic dynasties and the Ptolemaic period (circa 1069 - 30 BC)

Taharqa présente des vases à vin au dieu Hémen

© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
The final Pharaonic dynasties and the Ptolemaic period (circa 1069 - 30 BC)

Author(s):
Guichard Sylvie

This statue represents King Taharqa, the third sovereign of the 25th Dynasty (ruled by Nubian kings). He reigned over Egypt for nearly half a century until the country was invaded and conquered by the Assyrians. The kneeling pharaoh offers two round vases to a falcon god holding a rearing cobra. This sculpture in the round depicts a traditional scene: an offering of wine to a deity.

A powerful king

The small bronze statuette in this group is a magnificent portrait of King Taharqa, born in the Sudan but crowned in Memphis. His power and dual reign over Egypt and Nubia is affirmed by the two uraeus cobras on his forehead. His birth name is engraved on his belt: "The perfect god, Taharqa alive for eternity." Taharqa was the most famous pharaoh of the 25th Dynasty, also known as the reign of the Kushites. He renovated old temples, constructed new shrines, and had official inscriptions written throughout his large empire. A monumental column in the first court of Karnak marks his architectural participation in the great temple of Amun. He is kneeling and clad in the traditional Egyptian kilt. He is much smaller than the majestic falcon, which is covered in gold leaf; the king is offering vases of wines to the animal.

A little-known god

The inscription on the back of the silver-plated wooden base identifies this bird of prey. This is not the great Horus, but the god Hemen, the patron of the city of Hefat, present-day el-Moalla in Upper Egypt. This deity is rarely mentioned; indeed, this is the only example of a sculpture in the round of this god. Laboratory analyses have revealed that a roughly carved stone falcon was reused and gilded, then placed on a simple wooden base that was plated in silver, along with the sculpture of Taharqa. At first, it appears paradoxical to see a great sovereign alongside an obscure god on the same base, but the inscription on a stele provides the key to this unusual association.

A miraculous flood

This text, which dates from year 6 of Taharqa's reign, relates how the king, during a famine that followed a drought, prayed to several gods, including Hemen, for extensive flooding of the Nile. The king expressed his gratitude to the gods by dedicating steles and various monuments in their respective temples. This group is therefore an ex-voto placed by the king in the shrine of Hemen, to thank the god for the miraculous flood. With this object, Taharqa revived a thousand-year-old tradition by which the pharaoh fulfills his duty toward the gods by consecrating monuments to them, in exchange for their benevolence and protection.

Technical description

  • Taharqa présente des vases à vin au dieu Hémen

  • bronze (roi), grauwacke plaquée d'or (Hémen), socle en bois plaqué d'argent

    H. : 19,70 cm. ; l. : 26 cm. ; L. : 10,30 cm.

  • E 25276

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    From the year 1000 to the first Persian conquest, c. 1069–404 BC
    Room 29
    Vitrine 13 : La 26e dynastie et les Perses (27e dynastie)

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