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Work Wall from a temple of Ramesses II

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Le roi Ramsès II parmi les dieux

© Musée du Louvre/G. Poncet

Egyptian Antiquities
The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)

Author(s):
Élisabeth DELANGE

The five blocks of the wall from the temple of Ramesses II in Abydos fit together and present two successive tableaux, separated by a vertical band of inscriptions. The king is twice shown heading leftward to meet gods, though only the gods in the first scene are still visible. The quality of the bas-relief, the figures’ elegant facial features, and the bright polychrome decoration testify to the splendor of Ramesses II's masterpiece.

Two tableaux

The five blocks compose a chapel wall featuring two tableaux. The upper frieze, which ran the length of the wall, shows the names of the king followed by a "kheker" frieze of plant stems. To the left, a vulture protects the king as he walks. The second tableau shows Ramesses II in the company of four deities: one to the right, three others facing him. When the inscriptions are too fragmentary or do not give the names of these gods, they can nonetheless be identified by their headdresses and insignia. Isis and the falcon-headed Horus hold the sign for "life" to the king's nostrils; a god then presents the insignia of Osiris—the crook and flail—to Ramesses II; he is followed by a goddess, crowned with a large, red sun disk, who presents the king with the "menat" necklace.

Face to face

Encounters such as this between the pharaoh and the gods were a recurrent theme in the decoration of pharaonic temples. As High Priest, the pharaoh played the prime role in the cult of the gods, in exchange for which he was given Life (the ankh sign) in the name of all Egypt. The divine nature of the pharaoh made him the equal of the gods, so their faces could be similarly represented. The gods are given the face of Ramesses II, with its smooth, proud, and elegant profile, kohl-rimmed eyes, and finely carved ears; in exchange, the pharaoh is attributed gold, on his necklace and arm jewelry. The only thing that distinguishes him from the gods is his headdress: the blue khepresh, adorned with the uraeus.

Style in the early reign of Ramesses II

Ramesses II, whose reign lasted sixty-seven years, was a prolific builder. This chapel wall in fine white limestone comes from the king's small temple in Abydos, built in the early years of his reign near the famous "Temple of Millions of Years" of his father Sethos I. The abbreviated form of his name engraved in the cartouches and the style of the relief decoration confirm this dating to a period which saw the apogee of monumental intaglio-relief engraving that played on several depths and was embellished with bright colors.

Bibliography

Les Pharaons, catalogue de l’exposition, Venise, 2002, p. 392, notice n° 19.

- From Babylon bis Jerusalem, catalogue de l’exposition, Vienne, 1999, p. 62-63, notice n° 81.

- Nefertari, Luce d’Egitto, catalogue de l’exposition, Rome, 1994, p. 135-137.

Technical description

  • Le roi Ramsès II parmi les dieux

    vers 1275 avant J.-C. (19e dynastie)

    provient du petit temple bâti par le roi Ramsès II à Abydos

  • calcaire peint

    H. : 1 m. ; l. : 1,35 m. ; Pr. : 0,14 m.

  • B 10, B 11, B 12, B 13, B 14

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    The temple
    Room 12
    Vitrine 10 : Barque de la déesse Anouket

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