This small statuette, possibly a votive object, is carved from steatite, embellished with a deep green glaze. It measures only 29 centimetres in height, but despite this small size it is a stunning work of art. It can be found in the Louvre in Paris, and has the accession number E25493. It appears to have originally been a paired statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his Great Royal Wife Queen Tiye standing side by side in elaborate royal regalia. However, only the arm of Amenhotep survives, although much of the figure of Queen Tiye is intact. Even in its broken state this is a masterpiece of Egyptian craftsmanship.
Queen Tiye is depicted as both a Queen and a Goddess. She wears a feather dress similar to those often worn by goddesses, as well as a double feather crown associated with the goddesses Hathor and Isis. A uraei and vulture diadem with a vulture or hawk wing cap lie atop her elaborate wig. In her hand she holds a floral sceptre, a symbol of queenship, and she is further adorned with a collar necklace and bracelets.
The back pillar is inscribed with names and titles of the King and Queen. Tiye’s round face, almond shaped eyes, and overall youthful appearance may suggest this object was made near the time of Amenhotep’s Sed Festival or jubilee in year 30 of his reign, an event at which the King’s power and vitality was spiritually renewed and reborn – and it appears it was an event at which Amenhotep III was also deified. The object certainly reflects something of Tiye’s power and prestige within Amenhotep’s court, both in her dress and regalia, but it also seems, from the size of Amenhotep’s arm, that she is shown nearly the same size as he would have been.
The object has an interesting provenance. The lower half of the statuette was originally part of the collection of Henry Salt, British Consul in Egypt and one of the first great collectors of Egyptian antiquities. Objects he collected, in partnership with Giovanni Belzoni, formed the basis of the Egyptian antiquities collection of the British Museum. His second collection of antiquities was sold to the Louvre in 1826 for £10,000, and the statuette was among those objects. We might suggest therefore that it may have been collected in Luxor, where Salt did much of his excavating and purchasing.
In 1962 the upper part of the statuette came onto the art market and was purchased by the Louvre, thus bringing two parts of the statuette back together. The Louvre hope that one day perhaps the rest of Amenhotep may be found and reunited with this beautiful statuette. Perhaps the missing piece is sitting forgotten in someone’s attic, a souvenir from a long-ago visit to Egypt. We can but hope it one day comes to light!
**this article was first published on Antiquarian Eye