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Statue of a Kneeling Official Permanent Collection:
Ancient Egyptian Art:
Statue of a Kneeling Official

Late Period, Twenty-sixth Dynasty, ca. 664-525 B.C. Basalt. Gift of the Connoisseurs, 1988.4.1

This statue, now missing its head, shows a kneeling official offering a shrine containing the emblem of the goddess Hathor. The virtuoso working of the hard stone is typical of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. The smooth, polished, rounded forms give the end product a plasticity and softness that belie the hard nature of the material. Like most Late Period statues, the piece was placed in a temple so as to associate the donor in perpetuity with the cult performed there.

The figure exhibits the frontality typical of formal ancient Egyptian statues. This goes back to the earliest times and probably derives from the function and context of cult statues. These were usually placed in shrines like the one offered here, before which rituals were performed. In order to look out of the shrine, the statue had to look forward, directly at the enactor of the ritual. This frontality remained a feature of all formal statues for 3,000 years, but statues representing non-elite or generic figures could be shown in poses that lacked frontality.

The texts identify the statue as belonging to a high government official called Horkhebi, who also has the more formal name of Psamtikemakhet that incorporates the name of one of the kings of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty. In the texts, he refers several times to his "mistress" and says "my two arms are round my mistress." This can only refer to the shrine that he holds, which contains Hathor's emblem, and we must assume that the goddess is "his mistress."


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