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Work Wall tile

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

Fragments de décor palatial : prisonniers étrangers, rosettes

© Musée du Louvre/G. Poncet

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

Pierrat-Bonnefois Geneviève

This type of colored faience tile was used to decorate the royal palaces of the New Kingdom. The foreign captive chosen as the subject here evokes the dominion the pharaoh was said to exercise over the rest of the known world, as one of his mythical attributes. At the same time, the motley garments of such foreigners provided a pretext for a colorful and exotic decorative scheme.

Captured in faience

A bearded man is depicted in the posture of a vanquished enemy, down on one knee, with right shoulder turned away and hands tied behind his back. He wears a pleated robe with much colored braid, and from his neck hangs a disk pendant, an item of jewelry characteristic of the peoples of the Syria-Palestine region in the 2nd millennium BC. Together with his fine black beard, these details identify him as being from those lands.
The tile is made of faience, a quartz-based ceramic, and has a colored glaze. The method of production was particularly elaborate: the different elements of the body, whose details are picked out in paint, were modeled in low relief and then applied to a common base. The section with the hair has been lost after coming loose.

The palaces of Ramesses III

Ramesses III was a great king whose reign lasted more than thirty years. The ruins of two of his palaces have been discovered, the first on the Left Bank at Thebes, within the precincts of his great temple at Medinet Habu, and the second at Tell el-Yahudiya in the southern Delta, not far from present-day Cairo. The second was entirely destroyed in the 1880s, but its faience tiles were collected by local inhabitants and are today to be found in a number of museums. They include tiles with rosettes, bearing the name of the king, and with images of foreign captives. At that time, the range of metallic oxides used for the colored glaze of the tiles was extended, and gradually a comprehensive palette of colors was developed, with intermediate shades and pastel colors such as pink and pale gray being added to the primary colors available earlier.

The king of Egypt and foreign lands

The reign of Ramesses III was not a time of peace. He had on the one hand to fight off attacks by Libyans from the west, and on the other to repulse the Sea Peoples who came down from the north having swept through the lands of the eastern Mediterranean. These battles were immortalized on the walls of his great temple at Medinet Habu. The peoples depicted on the faience tiles of his palaces, however, do not relate to contemporary events, but were rather the traditional, almost mythical, representatives of Egypt's ever-present neighbors, the Nubians, Lybians, and Syrians. The decoration of the palace thus reflected the official ideology, which required that the pharaoh dominate the surrounding world. The representation of the foreigner here thus served a symbolic purpose, rather than a specific documentary or ethnological one.


Catalogue de l'exposition Les Pharaons, Venise, 2002, P. 435, notice n 117

M. ETIENNE, Heka - Magie et envoûtement dans l'Egypte ancienne, Catalogue d'exposition, Louvre/Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 2000

Catalogue de l'exposition Pharaonen und Fremde, Vienne, 1994, p. 1994, notice n 386

Technical description

  • Fragments de décor palatial : prisonniers étrangers, rosettes

    règne de Ramsès III (1184 - 1153 avant J.-C.), 20e dynastie

    palais de Tell el-Yahoudiyeh dans le Delta

  • faïence siliceuse

    H. : 8,70 cm. ; L. : 9,50 cm. ; Pr. : 2,40 cm.

  • Don Companyo

    A Syrian captive

    E 7691 A, E 7691 B, E 7691 C, E 7691 D, E 25503, E 25504, E 25505, E 4855

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    The New Kingdom
    Room 641
    Vitrine 7 : Autour de Ramsès II

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