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Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)
© Musée du Louvre/G. Poncet
The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)
This small stele has bas-reliefs sculpted on both sides. Dedicated by a vizier to Ramesses II, one side depicts the king in the pose of a child: seated, his finger to his lips, and a braid of hair falling to one side. On the other side, the vizier honors the god Ptah. This unusual image of Ramesses II as a child, who often boasted of winning the battle of Qadesh, still presents unanswered questions.
Both sides of this small stele are sculpted. On the front, the royal child is none other than the conqueror Ramesses II, identified by the royal cartouche. He is depicted in the traditional pose of a child, seated on a soft cushion, his finger to his lips, and his head bare except for a braid of hair falling to one side, and a uraeus wound around his head. On the reverse side, the vizier, whose name is missing, is identified as such by the garments denoting his function. His hands raised in prayer, he honors the god Ptah. This god is housed in a small aedicule, or miniature temple. His body is entirely sheathed. His hair forms a skullcap and his beard is straight. He has a collar and he holds a composite scepter in both hands.
Gods of creation
The two sides of this votive monument are linked in a subtle way. The cushion on the side bearing the king to whom the monument is dedicated reproduces the hieroglyphic sign of the akhet, or horizon [the sun rising between two mountain peaks]. It is a reminder that the divine child can be compared to the primordial being that is being born: the "chosen of Ra" is "similar to the Sun" that rises on the horizon. This is Ra, the creative force that is incarnated in the figure of the king.
The other side depicts the god Ptah of Memphis, the Egyptian capital as early as the Old Kingdom. Ramesses II was extremely attached to this city and paid special tribute to Ptah, the Great Craftsman. According to the theology of the antique capital, Ptah could bring forth life through thought and words. Ramesses II therefore encouraged representations of the creator gods, as in his famous stone temple of Abu Simbel.
Ramesses, the eternal child
The image of the child-king seems to have been copied from an earlier sculpture. The style is similar to that of images of the princesses from the court of Amenophis IV, featuring slender fingers, a bent index finger, beaded earrings, a profile pose, and a large pleated loincloth that rises up the back. This recurrent theme is not a real portrait of youth, and it appears on several gold cornelian amulets. Ramesses II created a manifesto of sorts by having himself represented in this way, crouching between the claws of a colossal falcon (Cairo Museum). During the sixty-seven years of his reign - one of the longest in the history of Egypt - Ramesses II had to revive the eternal youth of his realm through jubilees, as the vitality of Egypt depended on it.
Bibliographycatalogue de l'exposition Les Pharaons, Venise, 2002, notice n 45
Ch. Barbotin et E. David, L'Abécécaire de Ramsès II, Paris, 1997, p. 1, 13, 99, 115
G. ANDREU, M. H. RUTSCHOWSCAYA, C. ZIEGLER, L'Egypte au Louvre, Hachette, Paris, 1997, p. 144, 254, notice 65.
Catalogue de l'exposition Nefertari, Luce d'Egitto, Rome 1994, p. 154-155
Le Monde de la Bible, 1978, n 78 , p. 16, 18.
Catalogue de l'exposition Mémoires d'Egypte, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, 1990, p. 50-51, notice n 10.
New Kingdom, Nineteenth Dynasty, reign of Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC)
Sculpture (bas relief), limestone
H. 18 cm; W. 13 cm; D. 3.80 cm
Purchase, Salt collection, 1826
Ramesses II Represented as a Child
The New Kingdom
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