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Amazing Egyptian pharaoh statue loaned to the MET

RENEE MINUS WHITE Fashion & Beauty Editor | 8/18/2011, 10:55 a.m.
Amazing Egyptian pharaoh statue loaned to the MET

An amazing, monumental, ancient Egyptian statue will be lent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Berlin's renowned Agyptisches Museum and Papyrussammlung, Staatiliche Museen zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz for a period of 10 years beginning this month. Probably of Amenemhat ll, the 10-foot-tall seated pharaoh statue weighs nearly one ton.

The 4,000-year-old sculpture entered the Berlin museum's collection in 1837. Because of a construction project now underway to renovate the courtyard on Museumsinsel (Museum Island) where the work had most recently been displayed, the statue had to be moved, providing the opportunity for this long-term loan. The sculpture will go on view in the Metropolitan's Great Hall for approximately one year before it is moved to the Lila Acheson Wallace Galleries of Egyptian Art.

The Middle Kingdom sculpture is an outstanding example of ancient Egypt's magnificent colossal statuary, of which very few examples can be found in American museums.

"Thanks to the generosity of our colleagues in Berlin, this splendid statue will be on loan to the Met for the next 10 years, allowing a very rare glimpse at such monumental Egyptian sculpture in the United States," commented Thomas P. Campbell, director and CEO of the Metropolitan Museum. "To celebrate its arrival, we are installing this imposing pharaoh for the coming year in our Great Hall, where it will surely awe our visitors and encourage them to explore the Met's own Egyptian collections."

The single block of granodiorite stone from which the sculpture was carved was quarried at Aswan then shipped north over more than 500 miles to the area of Memphis, near present-day Cairo. The sculpture was completed at this location and the statue was erected in a temple complex.

The sculpture depicts a seated king wearing only a kilt around his hips and upper legs, seated on a simple cubic throne with a short vertical seatback. A kind of blanket spreads over the top of the seat and hangs down the back. The ceremonial bull's tail that all pharaohs wore attached to their belts as a sign of strength can be seen between the king's legs.

On his head is the royal headcloth called a "nemes." Over his forehead is the royal cobra, symbolizing the ruler's awesome power. The pharaoh also wears a ceremonial false beard and in his right hand holds a piece of cloth, a status symbol perhaps originally meant as a cloth to wipe sweat from the forehead.

Based on the style of the art, the sculpture has been assigned to the era of the reign of the 12th Dynasty pharaoh Amenemhat II (1919-1885 B.C.). Some six centuries later, the 19th Dynasty pharaohs Ramesses 11 (1270-1213 B.C.) and Merneptah (1213-1203 B.C.) had their names and titles inscribed on it.

On the chest of the statue, a broad collar and a pectoral with the names Ramesses II and, underneath it , Merneptah, are later additions. Some of the facial features-such as the mouth, ears and portions of the eyes, nemes and cobra-were also altered to resemble images of Ramesses ll.

Stone sculptures that can be attributed to Amenemhat ll's time, such as a large sphinx in the Louvre and the Berlin colossus, combine monumental size with meticulous detail and keenly observed anatomical features. Several works of the period show influences from the Old Kingdom pyramid age.

For show schedules and information, visit www.metmuseum.org.