1. Description of the statue

The triad in the Museo Egizio, Turin, Cat. 767, represents a king seated between the gods Amun-Ra and Mut. It is carved in red granite. Its dimensions are: h. 170; w. 113.5; d. 94 cm. It was sold to the king of Sardinia and duke of Piedmont Carlo Felice in 1824, as part of consul Bernardino Drovetti’s collection, which formed the core collection of the then Regio Museo. Like most of the large statues from the Drovetti collection now in Turin, this triad was found in Karnak by the sculptor and excavator Jean-Jacques Rifaud in 1818.1

Turin Cat. 767. Photo by Pino and Nicola Dell’Aquila / Museo Egizio.

The three figures are represented embraced, seated on a throne with a low backrest, and leaning against a high back slab. The throne is decorated by the Egyptian frieze pattern on the front, on either side of the legs of each figure, and on the sides of the throne, to suggest three individual thrones. The back slab, which is narrower than the throne, is rounded at the top. The base, which has the same width as the seat, is slightly rounded at the front.

The outer hand of both deities lies flat on the knee, while the fingers of the inner one protrude from behind the opposite shoulder of the king. The king’s hands emerge from the back slab to rest on the respective shoulders of the deities.

The god Amun wears his characteristic headgear, a crown surmounted by a pair of high feathers. He73-75 wears the draped kilt of male deities, knotted at the front and covering an under-kilt, while a tight-fitting corselet with two straps covers the torso. A plaited divine beard, now broken, once adorned the chin. The traces of its break are visible on the chest, while the chinstraps are still incised on the cheeks.

Head of Amun (Turin Cat. 767, detail). Photo by Pino and Nicola Dell’Aquila / Museo Egizio.

Knees of Amun (Turin Cat. 767, detail). Photo by Pino and Nicola Dell’Aquila / Museo Egizio.

Mut’s arm (Turin Cat. 767, detail). Photo by Pino and Nicola Dell’Aquila / Museo Egizio.

The goddess Mut wears the traditional sheath dress with borders and straps decorated with a frieze pattern. Her long tripartite wig is topped by the canonical crown of Isis and Hathor: a modius and a lyriform pair of cow’s horns enclosing the solar disc.

Seated between the two deities, the king is dressed in a ceremonial kilt with a striated front-piece terminated by six pendants which are flanked by two uraei. Above the nemes, the king wears the henu-crown, composed of a solar disc and two ostrich feathers mounted on a pair of twisted ram horns.2

Each of the three figures wears a wesekh-collar composed of five undecorated bands and a row of drop-shaped pendants. Striated bracelets adorn the arms of Amun, as well as the proper left wrist and the ankles of Mut.

An inscription in six columns is carved on the front face of the back slab, in addition to a horizontal cartouche above the king.76

Inscriptions on Turin Cat. 767. Drawing: S. Connor.


Above the king ←

Wsr-mAa.t-Ra stp-n-Ra


Between Amun-Ra and the king ←↓

nTr nfr nb tAwy Wsr-mAat-Ra stp-n-Ra sA Ra nb xaw Ra-ms-sw Mry-Imn di anx

mry Imn-Ra nb nswt tAwy xnty Ipt-swt nTr aA nb pt

1 The perfect god, Lord of the Two Lands, Usermaatre-Setepenre, the son of Ra, the lord of crowns, Ramessu-Meryamun, given life,

2 ↓→ beloved of Amun-Ra, lord of the thrones of the Two Lands, foremost in Ipet-Sut, the great god, lord of the sky.”

Between the king and Mut

Dd mdw in Imn-Ra n(i)-swt nTrw di.n(.i) n.k anx Dd wAs nb n nb tAwy Wsr-mAat-Ra stp-n-Ra

Mwt wrt nbt ISrw nbt pt Hnwt tAwy

1 Words to be said by Amun-Ra, lord of the gods: ‘I gave you every life, stability and strength, to the Lord of the Two Lands, Usermaatre-Setepenre.’

2 Mut the Great, Lady 3 of Isheru, Lady of 4 the Sky, Mistress of the Two Lands.”

2. State of preservation

The statue is almost complete. Only the proper left hand of the goddess and the beard of Amun are missing. The feet of the king and of Mut are damaged. The face of Amun, his knees, and Mut’s proper left arm consist of separate pieces of granite integrated into the main block. These repairs will be discussed below.

The sculpture was restored in 1991 at the G. Nicola Laboratories in Aramengo (Piemonte, Province of Asti). Until then, the surface of the statue was very dark. According to the restorer,3 this black appearance was due to dust and a black oily film that darkened the red granite’s surface, an effect which he attributed to a nineteenth-century treatment of the statue. He detected old integrations of poor-quality plaster, as well as oil painting on Amun’s legs and Mut’s left arm, which are compatible with a nineteenth-century restoration.4

The 1991 restoration consisted mainly of mechanical cleaning and treatment of the nineteenth-century chromatic integration by tone rendering with Liquitex, specifically on Amun’s knees and further down, near the modern cement base.

This cleaning process revealed colour in some areas, specifically on the skin, the shendjyt-kilt (white), and the feathers of Amun.

3. History of the piece

The statue is registered as having been found in Thebes in 1818 by Jean-Jacques Rifaud, one of the agents of the French consul Bernardino Drovetti.5 Rifaud was in charge of collecting statues on the East Bank of Thebes and carved his name and the year of discovery on the back of the statue. Determining the specific location of the statue in Thebes is still a work in progress, but we have traced some important information.

The statue can be identified in the “Catalogue de la collect. d’antiq. de mons. le chev. Drovetti”, written in 1822, as number 35 (“Statues” section): “Trois divinités en granit rouge”.6

This triad is traceable in two different handwritten lists in Jean-Jacques Rifaud’s memoirs held in the Bibliothèque de Genève. As a study of his manuscript pages has borne out, we know that Rifaud worked for a long time inside the temple of Karnak in Luxor. In the first list, we read :7

21 I bas relief de trois divinites en granit rose representant hourus isis et hosiris d’une conservation parfaite d’un tres beau style et d’un superbe fini enrichi de caracteres hyerogliphiques d’un grande dimension de position asises … 12.000

In the second, more synthetic list, there is an interesting piece of information:8 « 20 le barelief des 3 divinite en greni rose 12000 ». The number 12,000 refers to the cost in Egyptian piastres, a currency of the time in which most of Rifaud’s economic transactions are registered.

The year of discovery, 1818, was the most profitable period for Rifaud, during which he found several works currently held in Turin. We can still read in his written memories a description of the wealth of discoveries made at the time (Fig. 6):9

(…) javais quelques fonds a moi et je les enployä [employa] pandants un mois e demi sans77 recevoir de largen [l’argent] de M. Drovetti je decouvri huit jours apres mes fouilles le fameus barelifs [bas-reliefs] de granit rose represantent les trois divinites assises isis orus et isiris le bas relief avet [avait] 6 pieds de hau se trouve dans le Musée de Turin a peu de distance le meme jour je trouve 2 singes acroupis sur leurs derieres de trois pieds de hau parfaitemant conservee come le barelief et le landemin [lendemain] je trouve une belle estatues en marbre de 4 pieds et demi de hau de position acroupie les mains apuient [appuyées] a plats et croise sue les jenous cete estatue etet en forme d’un canope 4 jours a prai [après] je decouvrit dautres statues et un temple inconnu jusque alors an fin javais decouvert 8 estatues de toute beaute (…)

Page from the memoirs of J.-J. Rifaud. Bibliothèque de Genève.

The excavations in this area were thus very successful.10 Rifaud also found other statues besides those mentioned above.11 In the same pages of his memoirs, he adds that he had 250 people working for him at the time.

Following years of excavating in Egypt, Rifaud wrote and published a book titled Tableau de l’Egypte, de la Nubie et des lieux circonvoisins ; ou itinéraire a l’usage des voyageurs qui visitent ces contrées, a text that offers such a wealth of information that it can be regarded as a true travel guide.12 This work was enriched by 250 plates, which were published in fascicles from 1830 onward, over a span of about twenty years.

In the explanatory captions for the drawings in his Tableau de l’Egypte, Rifaud indicates the eastern area of Karnak as the place where he discovered some important statues, some of which are clearly recognizable as works in the collection of the Egyptian Museum in Turin. Among these drawings, we also find triad Cat. 767, on plate 47, captioned « Statues en granit, decouvertes par l’auteur, dans les fouilles à Thèbes, à la partie est du grand temple de carnak ».

In the same text, a report summarises Rifaud’s discoveries in Egypt. In its mention of the eastern area of Karnak, the text refers to the sector outside “the great temple or palace”. Therefore, the place of excavation of the statue is probably the eastern part of the large enclosure of Amun, an area that we can assume was excavated by Rifaud during the year 1818. It is most probably the temple of Amun-Ra-Harakhty or Amun-Who-Hears-Prayers, which lies east of the great temple of Amun-Ra, along its axis (Fig. 7). Since it is poorly preserved, only aerial photos allow us to recognize and understand the temple of Amun-Who-Hears-Prayers as a whole. This structure was erected in the Eighteenth Dynasty, then rebuilt by Ramesses II and subsequently completed during the Twenty-fifth Dynasty. It is built against the back of the main temple and oriented in the opposite direction. Functioning as a complement to the main temple’s cultic activities, which were inaccessible to the common man, this “contra-temple” seems to have been devoted to personal piety, allowing more direct contact between the human and the divine worlds.13

East temple of Karnak. Photo: S. Connor.

If the Turin triad was really found among the ruins of this eastern temple, it is likely that it was visible to a relatively large number of people – at least more than if it had stood within the walls of the main temple. The sculpture may therefore have been one of several intercessor-images between the worshipper and the gods, as could be expected in a “contra-temple”. Although the rest of the statue is in a relatively good state of preservation, the upper surface of78-79 the base is worn around the feet of the three figures (Fig. 8). We suggest that the concave-worn and highly altered surface could be interpreted as a trace of personal piety. The feet of Amun are very shiny, as if they had been frequently touched, as is the whole front surface. Touching, rubbing or scraping a cultic or magical image, a practice observable in a wide range of cultures, seems indeed to have been a quite widespread practice in Egypt throughout its history. The practice of scraping stone from sacred images on the temple walls, which is likely to be evidence of personal piety or magic ritual, is well attested as early as the New Kingdom, and has been observed up until recent times.14

Upper surface of the base of triad Cat. 767. Photo by Pino and Nicola Dell’Aquila / Museo Egizio.

4. Style, typology and interpretation

At a certain distance, the group shows elegant and harmonious proportions. However, the art historian may feel somewhat intrigued when contemplating the faces up close, as they show some irregularities in treatment and in the quality of their carving. Even though the treatment of the bodies, clothes, crowns and ornaments is well balanced and of fine quality, the faces are less elegantly proportioned (particularly in the profile view). Of course, a specialist may use her/his eye and “gut feeling” in the first instance, but hard evidence for either authenticity or forgery, or for a precise dating, should be sought, and all possible objectivity deployed.

Some areas on the faces of the king and of the goddess display irregularities in the smoothness of their polishing compared to the rest of the surface. This could be interpreted as a sign of re-carving of a pre-existing statue. The surface around the eyes is rougher than that of the cheeks, as is the area surrounding the mouth. However, the polishing of the whole of the statue’s surface was not very carefully done, so these differences in polish do not seem to be a sufficient argument for re-carving. Analysing a portrait of Ramesses II is not the easiest task, not because we lack representations of the king – who is by far the most frequently attested in the repertoire handed down to us – but because of the diversity of their styles. Several reasons may be at the origin of these stylistic differences: chronological, since his reign spanned 67 years, i.e. three generations, or geographical, as this variety may reflect diversities between local productions or ateliers, whether permanent or not. Another factor may be the individuality and skill level of the sculptor(s). The size of a statue also has an impact on its appearance,15 as does the material it is made of – each requiring specific tools and techniques. These criteria, considered individually or combined, show the complexity of a stylistic approach to a statuary corpus. Typology also influences the style and iconography of a statue.16 Group statues, for example, often show some rigidity and a flatter appearance, partly because the sculptors were probably hindered in their work by the very character of the piece, which they ended up treating more as a high relief than a sculpture in the round. Finally, given the great number of statues bearing the name of Ramesses II that are actually earlier sculptures, ranging in date from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Dynasties, whose style was modified in order to “Ramessize” their features, we are sometimes confronted with royal faces bearing alterations or of unusual proportions, due to retouching by a sculptor.

The examples gathered below illustrate this diversity among the portraits of Ramesses II. Statues in granite and granodiorite that are approximatively life-sized show quite consistent features (Fig. 9). However, colossi in other materials differ in quality and style (Figs. 10, 11). As mentioned above, many reused works from previous dynasties were re-carved for Ramesses II, a good example of which is a mid-Eighteenth Dynasty statue now in Turin (Cat. 1381, Fig. 12). These statues therefore often display stylistic features of both periods combined. Other statues show unusual proportions and seeming marks of re-carving, which have led some scholars to suggest that they were reused from an earlier reign – probably that of Amenhotep III (Fig. 13) – but this is still under debate.17 Fig. 14 show some close-ups of group statues.

a: Turin Cat. 1380. From Karnak. Granodiorite. H. 196 cm. Photo by Pino and Nicola Dell’Aquila / Museo Egizio.b: Luxor Museum (previously Cairo CG 824). Unknown provenance. Granodiorite. 117 cm. Photo Luxor Museum / S. Connor.c: Marsa Matruh Museum (former Graeco-Roman Museum, Alexandria, inv. 503A / 417). From Abukir. Granite. H. 95 cm. Photo Marsa Matruh Museum / S. Connor.d: Cairo JE 37485 – CG 616. From Tanis. Granodiorite. H. 77 cm. Photo Egyptian Museum, Cairo / H. Sourouzian.

a: Tanis (on display in front of Sheshonq III’s gate). Quartzite. H. 248 cm. Photo MFFT / H. Sourouzian.b: Matariya, site museum of Heliopolis, inv. 1067. From ‘Arab el-Hisn. Limestone. W. 106.5. Photo Open air Museum Matariya / H. Sourouzian.c: Aswan, Nubian Museum. From Gerf Hussein. Sandstone. H. 600 cm. Photo Nubian Museum / S. Vannini.d: Luxor temple, courtyard, western seated colossus. Granodiorite. H. 927 cm. Photo: A. Chéné.

Left: Head of one of the standing colossi in front of Luxor temple’s pylon (eastern tower). Granodiorite. H. head: 110 cm. Photo: S. Connor, courtesy of Luxor Inspectorate.Centre: Giza, Grand Egyptian Museum. Colossus once standing in front of Ramesses station, Cairo. From Memphis. Granite. H. 780 cm. Egypt Today, Oct. 1995, photo T. Cross.Right: Mit Rahina / Memphis open-air museum. Colossus found in front of the temple of Ptah. Limestone. H. 1095 cm. Photo Open Air Museum / H. Sourouzian.

Turin Cat. 1381. Statue from the Eighteenth Dynasty (probably Thutmose III or Amenhotep II) re-carved and re-inscribed for Ramesses II. From Karnak. Granite. H. 220 cm. Photo by Pino and Nicola Dell’Aquila / Museo Egizio.

Left: Cairo JE 67097. From Tanis. Granodiorite. H. 210 cm. Photo Egyptian Museum, Cairo / S. Connor.Centre: Geneva 8934. From Bubastis. Granodiorite. H. 200 cm. Photo: S. Connor, courtesy of the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire.Right: Louvre A 20. From Tanis. Granodiorite. H. 256 cm. Photo: S. Connor, courtesy of the Louvre Museum.

a: Figure of Sety I in the group statue in Abydos, temple of Ramesses II, associating both kings with Osiris, Isis and Horus. Granodiorite. H. 194 cm. Photo: S. Connor, courtesy of Abydos Inspectorate.b: Goddess Anta, from dyad Cairo JE 56366. From Tanis. Granodiorite. H. 190 cm. Photo Egyptian Museum, Cairo / S. Connor.c: Ramesses II, from dyad Cairo JE 56366. From Tanis. Granodiorite. H. 190 cm. Photo Egyptian Museum, Cairo / S. Connor.d: Ramesses II, from triad Turin Cat. 767. Photo by Pino and Nicola Dell’Aquila / Museo Egizio.

Among this huge repertoire, we observe a series of recurrent features in Ramesses II’s depictions.18 The eyes are almond-shaped, wide apart and surmounted by thick upper eyelids. The nose is aquiline. The cheeks are full. The corners of the mouth are raised and sunken, giving the impression of a smile. Slight nasolabial furrows are suggested by modelling, descending from the nostrils, while two other slight furrows start from the corners of the lips and lead80-82 towards the chin. The earlobes are thick, clearly defined and pierced with a hole. The helix and tragus meet before continuing horizontally towards the centre of the ear. Two horizontal grooves underline the top of the neck.19

In contrast with these common features, many details vary: while the contour of the face is usually a regular oval, the ratio between its height and width varies greatly. The area above the eyes can be deeply sunken, bringing out the bone structure of the arches of the eyebrows; sometimes, however, this space is sculpted very superficially. The mouth is generally small and curved in a somewhat artificial smile, but in some cases it is wider and more horizontal.

The nasolabial folds may be more or less accentuated, as can be those descending from the corners of the mouth. The eyes and eyebrows are most often underlined with a thick cosmetic line, but in some specimens they are not.

The same variety applies to iconographic elements, such as the pattern of stripes on the nemes, which vary within the corpus of Ramesses II. The most common pattern is a succession of regular stripes, alternatively in relief and sunk, as in the case of the Turin triad under study here. The surface of the sunken stripes is often left rougher, probably to facilitate the application of paint or gilding. In several examples, possibly earlier in the reign, the lappets are finely pleated, as they generally are until the reign of Sety I.

The Turin triad shows most of the features of a Ramesside portrait, although their treatment is not the most representative – perhaps not of the highest level of craftsmanship. The nose is very straight, instead of being aquiline. The upper lip is exceptionally receding, and the mouth is unusually large and fleshy. These features possibly reflect an inferior quality of execution of the faces, rather than a stylistic anomaly.

Profiles of Ramesses II, from statues Turin Cat. 1380 (left) and Luxor Museum CG 824 (right). Drawing: S. Connor.

Profiles of Amun, Ramesses II and Mut in triad Turin Cat. 767. Drawing: S. Connor.

With the proper lighting, clear scars surrounding the god’s face and knees, as well as the goddess’ left arm, indicate that these three elements are made83-84 of distinct fragments of stone, which were fixed to the statue group with the help of plaster. The goddess’ forearm is inserted into the thigh by means of a dowel and mortise system (Fig. 4). We could wonder whether these integrations are due to ancient or modern interventions. No documentation from the nineteenth century was found about a restoration of this piece, which would have been particularly invasive in the case of the left arm’s dowel.

As we shall see, a number of features observable on the statue belong to the Ramesside period. Nevertheless, some anachronisms, together with the fact that the statue was apparently restored in antiquity, speak in favour of an earlier period. In this case, the statue would have been adapted to fit the style of the Nineteenth Dynasty. An alternative, although less probable, interpretation would be that the statue was produced during the reign of Ramesses II, was damaged, possibly accidentally, and repaired soon after. If this were the case, the iconography adopted for this group, of Tuthmoside inspiration, would be reminiscent of earlier sculptures and could therefore be considered to be archaizing.

Non-discriminatory characteristics

1) The nemes is graced with a pattern of regular stripes, alternately in relief and hollowed out, with an inner edge on the lappets. This treatment of the nemes could fit with a pre-Amarna, post-Amarna or Ramesside dating. Although more frequent in the Ramesside period, it is not rare before it.

Cairo JE 36651 – CG 42097. Triad showing Tutankhamun between Amun and Mut. Limestone. H. 86; W. 115 cm. Photo Egyptian Museum, Cairo / S. Connor.

2) The henu-crown above the king’s nemes is composed of two twisted ram horns topped by a solar disc and a double ostrich feather (Fig. 14c). This detail would favour a pre-Amarna dating. In royal statuary, the henu-crown with the disc is flanked by two uraei in the post-Amarna period (e.g. Tutankhamun, Cairo JE 42097 [Fig. 17]; Horemheb, Cairo JE 49536)20 and in the Nineteenth Dynasty, as for example in one of the standing colossi of the small temple in Abu Simbel, the heads of standard-bearer statues Cairo CG 636 and JE 45193, Copenhagen dyad ÆIN 1483, as well as two of the statuary groups carved in the rock temple of Ramesses II at Gerf Hussein.21 The crown appears without this pair of uraei on statues of the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty (dyad of Amenhotep II [?] and Amun, Cairo CG 42065 [Fig. 29]; triad of Thutmose I restored by Tutankhamun, Cairo CG 42052 [Fig. 28]). Nevertheless, two Nineteenth Dynasty attestations of a henu-crown without uraei can be found: one in the figure of the deified Sety I in the statue group in the temple of Ramesses II in Abydos (Fig. 25),22 the other in a triad at Mit Rahina (Fig. 23). Consequently, this criterion is not absolute. The henu-crown, usually a divine attribute, is not frequently shown on royal figures. Therefore, the king’s figure may appear here as a divine figure, greeted by the gods as their kin.

Turin Cat. 767. Photo by Pino and Nicola Dell’Aquila / Museo Egizio.

3) The goddess is dressed in a tight-fitting sheath with narrow straps covering her breasts (Fig. 19). In the Amarna period, this type of sheath dress is replaced by the loose, flowing and fringed clothes that will remain in vogue under the Ramessides for queens in two-dimensional and some three-dimensional representations,23 while the traditional tight-fitting dress is retained for figures of goddesses, as it is in this case. The straps, as well as the upper and lower hems of the garment, show a band with a “ladder” motif, which M. Müller defines as a Leitermuster,24 and which we could also call a “frieze pattern”. The same motif adorns the upper hem of the corselet and the straps (also covering the nipples) of the god Amun in the Turin statue. These straps, which can either cover the breasts or85 leave them bare, are characteristic of the statuary of the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Dynasties.25 Until the reign of Amenhotep III, the straps are wide and completely cover the breasts.26 Under Amenhotep III, these straps are often decorated with a rosette motif on the breasts.27 Statues dating from the reigns of Ay, Horemheb and Sety I, as well as statue Cairo CG 555 (originally dating from the Middle Kingdom, but reappropriated by Ramesses II)28 show the goddess with straps leaving the breasts visible. However, a dyad from Serabit el-Khadim dating from the reign of Ramesses II (Brussels E. 5012)29 shows the straps covering the nipples, as was the case until Amenhotep III. It seems that straps leaving the breasts free are characteristic of the reigns from Ay to Sety I (or early Ramesses II), but too few examples have reached us to allow us to regard this as an absolute rule. It is therefore difficult, in the case of the Turin statue, to use the position of these straps as a reliable dating criterion. It could be pre-Amarna, but also date from the post-Amarnian Eighteenth Dynasty, or be a Ramesside adaption of the statue.

Turin Cat. 767 (detail). Drawing: S. Connor.

4) The headdress of the goddess consists of a tripartite wig surmounted by a modius supporting a solar disc nested between the lyre-shaped pair of horns. The type of the tripartite wig is very traditional and can hardly be used as a dating criterion (Fig. 20).30 In statues of the late Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties, Mut usually wears the double crown,31 but she can occasionally be represented with a headgear probably borrowed from Hathor and Isis. During the New Kingdom, the sun-disc combined with horns becomes indeed a generalized feature for the representations of goddesses and queens. This attribute appears most often above a modius, or directly surmounts86 the wig.32 It is usually accompanied by one or two uræi (most often one;33 sometimes two flanking the vulture’s head for Tiy,34 or two for Ramesside queens;35 the statue found in the Luxor Cachette shows none).36 This headgear, with or without a modius, cannot as yet serve as absolute criterion for dating or provenance. There seems to be a general tendency for the cow horns to lengthen during the reign of Tutankhamun, until largely surpassing the diameter of the disc. Furthermore, during the Nineteenth Dynasty, when the horns are long, the disc is surmounted by two high feathers, whereas the disc without feathers is encompassed by horns of reduced size.37 Therefore, the high horns surrounding a sun disc without feathers rather speak in favour of a pre-Ramesside dating. Nevertheless, the shape of the horns seems to vary quite considerably, even within the corpus of a single reign. Until exhaustive research is made on the evolution of all types of divine and royal female headgear in the New Kingdom, and closer parallels are found, all we can say is that the Turin statue so far stands out for its particularly small sun-disc and extremely high horns.

Lyre-shaped pairs of horns on statues of New Kingdom queens and goddesses. Drawing: S. Connor.

5) The royal belt is composed of horizontal folds, which could be either the result of a schematized double or triple band that usually features a frieze pattern, or may simply reproduce a pleated shawl. Such a belt is attested on statues of Amenhotep III,38 Tutankhamun,39 Sety I40 and Ramesses II.41 As for the god’s belt adorned by a double frieze decoration, it also appears under Sety I and Ramesses II, sometimes on royal statues, but particularly on divine figures in a statuary group.42

6) The horizontally pleated ceremonial kilt of the king is adorned with a finely wrought apron flanked by two pairs of ribbons and ornamented with horizontal incisions, ending with a row of pendants flanked by two uraei. It finds parallels (with variations such as a different number of uraei or the presence of a leopard head) under Amenhotep III, Akhenaten, Tutankhamun and Ramesses II.43 This kilt pattern could be the result of re-carving under Ramesses II, but might also be part of the original sculpture if it was actually made during the Eighteenth Dynasty.

Kilt of the king. Turin Cat. 767. Photo: S. Connor.

Ornament of the pleated ceremonial kilt in New Kingdom royal statues. Drawing: S. Connor.

7) The tail is attached to the back of the kilt. This feature is clearly indicated in statuary, starting from the reign of Amenhotep III, by a trapezoidal or rectangular element that is still observed during the reign of Ramesses II.44

8) The collars and bracelets were not incised or carved in recess in the pre-existing surface, as is the case with most statues reused by Ramesses II.45 Therefore, unless the whole surface of an earlier statue was entirely transformed during the Ramesside period, which seems unlikely, these ornaments must have already87 existed in the original statue. wesekh-collars and bracelets are particularly frequent on statuary from Amenhotep III onwards and during all of the Ramesside period, and occasionally appear even earlier.46

Post-Amarna characteristics

1) A frieze pattern decorates the front of the thrones of statues under Horemheb47 and Sety I,48 while a similar motive delimiting each of the three respective thrones, as in the case of the Turin triad, is also attested under Horemheb.49 As in the case of the royal kilt, this feature would therefore seem to be post-Amarna. Nevertheless, it is an easy-to-add detail and may well be an addition made during the hypothetical repair and reuse of the statue during the reign of Ramesses II.

Pre-Amarna characteristics

1) The general appearance of this triad is reminiscent of pre-Amarna sculpture. The slender limbs, particularly the legs, are not common in the Ramesside period; their proportions remind us rather of Thutmoside statuary.

2) Speaking against a Thutmoside dating, however, are the torsos, which are flat and thin, but not very elongated. Thutmoside torsos are generally slender, while statues of Amenhotep III often have a relatively short torso. The kilt worn by the king, with an apron adorned with uraei and solar discs, also finds no parallel before the reign of Amenhotep III, and is widely attested in Ramesside iconography. If the statue originally belonged to the Thutmoside period, it must have consequently undergone deep re-carving, leaving no trace of the original surface detectable. The knees are also very simple, with rounded kneecaps, as found under Amenhotep III and afterwards. In the Thutmoside period, they are generally more detailed and polygonal

3) Particularly noticeable is the absence of a beard. In the statuary corpus of the kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty, the nemes is generally associated with the cerimonial beard.50 Instead, the nemes and the smooth-chinned face are widely attested during the Eighteenth Dynasty. If we consider only group statues associating the king to deities, examples include the group of a king (Amenhotep II?) seated with the gods of the Abydenian triad (Cairo JE 49537),51 as well as the triad representing Tutankhamun seated between Amun and Mut (Cairo CG 42097)52 and the above-mentioned triad of Thutmose I restored during the post-Amarna period (Cairo CG 42052). Nevertheless, this is only a statistical argument, which has to be considered cautiously, since statues of the Eighteenth Dynasty can also show the beard associated with the nemes.53

4) The uninscribed rear part of the back slab is exceptional under Ramesses II. The inscriptions that usually adorn the back of triads are placed here at the front of the dorsal panel. Furthermore, the cartouche which is usually displayed vertically between the figures is carved horizontally here, due to lack of space. The explanation for the lack of an inscription on the back may be that the statue was carved in the Eighteenth Dynasty, when such an absence was common. The reason, then, for the – atypical for the Ramesside period – carving of the inscription on the front of the panel would be that this earlier statue was recarved when it was standing against a wall.

5) A further argument in favour of an earlier statue reused by Ramesses II is typological: while the mutually embracing attitude is well attested during the Eighteenth Dynasty,54 only one example is known so far for the Nineteenth: a triad on display in the open-air museum of Mit Rahina, which shows Ramesses II seated between two figures of Hathor (Fig. 23). Approximatively of the same dimensions as the granite triad in Turin, the limestone triad in Mit Rahina also displays slender proportions, as well as an association of the nemes with the henu-crown – but also with the royal beard. A close study of that sculptural group would be necessary to ascertain its date.

In the corpus of statuary preserved, during the Nineteenth Dynasty, the goddesses sometimes pass an arm behind the back or on the shoulder of their male counterpart, but the gesture is not reciprocal (Figs. 25, 26).

Mit Rahina, open-air museum. Triad showing Ramesses II between two figures of the goddess Hathor. Limestone. H. ca. 160 cm. Photos: S. Connor.

Turin Cat. 767. Photo by Pino and Nicola Dell’Aquila / Museo Egizio.

Group statue showing Ramesses II, Horus, Osiris, Isis and Sety I. Abydos, temple of Ramesses II. Granodiorite. H. 194 cm. Photo: S. Connor, courtesy of Abydos Inspectorate.

Cairo JE 56366. Dyad showing Ramesses II and the goddess Anta. Granodiorite. H. 190 cm. Photo Egyptian Museum, Cairo / S. Connor.

Discussion concerning the dating of the statue

The general appearance of the piece, the statuary type with the mutually embracing posture of the figures, as well as a number of iconographic (such as the shape of the crown) and stylistic details (slender proportions) are reminiscent of the statuary of the Eighteenth Dynasty. By contrast, the restorations88-90 that the statue has undergone, with separately carved inserts for Amun’s face and knees, and Mut’s arm, are characteristic of post-Amarna repairs. This leads us to wonder whether the statue could be a pre-Amarna statue, mutilated during the reign of Akhenaten like other examples (see below) and later restored. Assuming this scenario to be true, we could reconstruct the succession of events as follows:

1) The statue was sculpted during the Eighteenth Dynasty, at the latest shortly before or during the reign of Amenhotep III, probably for a Theban temple, either Karnak or Kom el-Hettan, where several other group statues were discovered.

2) The group was defaced during the reign of Akhenaten. The attacks were aimed at the face, knees and right hand of the god, as well as the left arm of the goddess (Fig. 23), but left intact the goddess’s face and the whole figure of the king, as well as, apparently, the rest of the statue. The beard of the god was carefully erased.

3) The statue was then left in that condition until the reign of Ramesses II, when it was restored. The restoration included the integration of carved patches for the damaged areas, similarly to the statues repaired during the reign of Tutankhamun mentioned above, but this time it also included a re-appropriation of the statue by re-carving its inscriptions and updating the style of the figures, following a practice widely attested under Ramesses II. The alternative interpretation, i.e., that we are dealing with an original statue carved during the reign of Ramesses II, is more difficult to accept. First, if this statue had been made for Ramesses II, it would have been particularly archaistic, showing a concentration of typological, iconographic and also stylistic nods to Eighteenth Dynasty sculpture. Secondly, if the restorations had followed accidental breaks, perhaps occurred during the manufacturing or transportation of the statue, it would be difficult to explain why this damage would have been limited to the face and hand of the god, as well as the arm of the goddess, i.e. precisely those parts that allowed the figures to act and be “alive”.

5. Ancient restorations in Egyptian sculpture

Ancient restorations are frequently attested in the repertoire of Egyptian statuary that has been handed down to us.55 Examples include colossal statues, whose size rendered them more susceptible to breakage due to their excessive weight, natural fractures within a large block of the stone, and the risks involved in carving the statue as well as in transporting it. Repairs by mortises and stone dowels are clearly visible on several statues. Among many instances, we may cite the rear part and right arm of the western seated colossus in front of the pylon of Luxor temple,56 the throne of a Twelfth Dynasty colossus91 reused by Ramesses II (Berlin ÄM 7264),57 the throne of a colossus of Amenhotep III re-named for Merenptah (New York MMA 22.5.2),58 or the jubilee statues of Amenhotep I in Deir el-Bahari, whose faces show several traces of repair.59 Ancient repairs are found not only in colossi, but also in sculptures of smaller size, probably considered valuable or important enough to be restored and re-activated (e.g. Cairo CG 42086, see below). In some cases, the ancient repairs regard small parts, such as, for example, the nose of the goddess Mut in the dyad of the western side of the Luxor temple’s great colonnade,60 the nose and uraeus of a kneeling statue of Merenptah,61 or the nose of a standard-bearer statue of Ramesses II from Buto, now in the Kafr el-Sheikh museum (Fig. 27)62. Remarkable care was taken to make such integrations as discreet as possible. Even in the case of the “rebus”-statue of Ramesses II, showing him in the form of a child protected by the falcon god Hauron, found in Tanis in a mud-brick chapel (Cairo JE 64735),63 the head of the hawk, which consists of a separate piece of dark limestone, was probably chosen to match the colour of the granodiorite body in which it was integrated.

Standard bearer statue of Ramesses II in Buto (detail). Granite. H. 280 cm. Photos: H. Sourouzian, courtesy of Buto Inspectorate.

In some cases, repairs can be made to accidentally broken pieces, while in others they may have aimed at re-activating damaged sculptures. The most illustrative examples of the latter instance are the statues (and group statues) depicting the god Amun hacked during the Amarna period and restored during the subsequent reigns:

1) Cairo JE 37394 – CG 42052:64 seated triad depicting the god Amun-Ra between the figures of Thutmose I and Ahmose (Fig. 28). From the Cachette of Karnak. Egyptian alabaster. H. 69; W. 38 cm. The figure of Amun has been entirely reconstructed: the legs and feet are made of a separate piece, inserted into the main body of the statue (the veins of the stone are clearly different). Plaster is visible behind the legs and under the feet. The upper part (up to the waist) of the whole triad is another separate piece, inserted in the lower part of the original statue. Although the inscriptions still describe the rulers as Thutmose I and Ahmose, the facial features clearly show the style of the post-Amarna period, most likely the reign of Tutankhamun.

Cairo CG 42052. Photo Egyptian Museum, Cairo / S. Connor.

2) Cairo JE 36909 – CG 42066:65 seated dyad depicting Thutmose III with Amun-Ra. From the Cachette of Karnak. Greywacke. H. 68; W. 31; D. 33 cm. The god’s figure is much smaller than the king’s and shows a different stylistic treatment for the body. The figure of Thutmose III is, moreover, in a very good state of preservation, while the head of Amun is completely missing. Two mortises cut into the dorsal panel clearly once allowed a new head for the god to be fixed in place, most probably during the post-Amarna period.

3) Cairo JE 36904 – CG 42065:66 seated dyad depicting a king (Thutmose III or Amenhotep II?) with Amun-Ra (Fig. 29). Granite. H. 125 cm. The face of the king displays the characteristic features of the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty and does not show any trace of ancient modification. However, the god’s face is made of a separate piece of granite, inserted inside the head. This fragment is of a different, more reddish variety of granite, and its stylistic features correspond to those typical of the late Eighteenth92-93 Dynasty. Some plaster is still visible on the “scar” all around the face. As in the case of the Turin triad, the beard of Amun was carefully removed (Fig. 29).

Cairo CG 42065. Photos Egyptian Museum, Cairo / S. Connor.

4) Paris E 10377 (AF 77):67 torso of a seated statue of the god Amun. Granodiorite. H. 67.8; W. 30.4; D. 21.3 cm. The edges of the rear and lower parts of the piece clearly indicate that it is not a broken fragment of a statue, but a complete piece for restoration, with polished geometric plans that allowed it to be inserted inside a statue. The facial and body features show the style of the late Eighteenth Dynasty.

5) Brussels E. 5698:68 face of the god Amun (Fig. 30). Granodiorite. H. 17.2; W. 15; D. 14.6 cm. The rear part of the piece shows plain and geometrically cut edges. It is clear that it is not a natural break. Like the previous piece, this face is not a fragment, but a complete element of restoration that was once inserted into the main block of a statue damaged during the Amarna period.

Brussels E. 5698. Photos: S. Connor, courtesy of the Musées royaux d’Art et d’Histoire.

6) Copenhagen ÆIN 35:69 face of the god Amun (Fig. 31). Granodiorite. H. 35 cm. As observed by Marianne Eaton-Krauss, the rear part of this head is flat, and she mentions a tenon on the left side, which allowed the face to be attached to the back of the statue, either a slab or a pillar. Like the two previous pieces, it was most probably a repair element sculpted during the post-Amarna period to re-activate a damaged pre-Amarna statue of Amun.

Copenhagen ÆIN 35. Photos: left and centre, S. Connor; right, Ole Haupt Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.

These six cases of restoration date back to the years following the return to orthodoxy, after the Amarna period, and the reinstatement of Amun as the dynastic god. The facial features of the restored parts all show the stylistic characteristics of the representations of Tutankhamun, Ay or Horemheb.70 It is likely that the difference in style between the original figure(s) still visible on these dyads and the restored figure of Amun reflects an intentionality. The aim of these repairs was not to hide the damage, but rather to make the restoration visible, materializing the extensive campaign of restoration of the post-Amarna rulers.71 None of these restored statues, however, shows any sign of re-appropriation or “usurpation”72 of the ancient statues; what we are looking at is simply a restoration of the broken fragments. The added elements show the stylistic features of the time to which they belonged, i.e., the post-Amarna period, but the identity of the originally represented king was preserved, as was the style of the non-damaged parts of the statues. Returning to the Turin triad, Cat. 767, we are most probably confronted with a similar situation: the restoration of a pre-Amarna statue, particularly as regards the restoration of Amun’s face with a patch. The sculpture’s style, iconography and proportions weigh in favour of such an interpretation, being so reminiscent of Eighteenth Dynasty sculpture.

The case of the Turin triad allows us to make a consideration on the evolution of the practice of restoring. The pre-Amarna statues damaged under Akhenaten and restored at the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty were not re-inscribed, even though the patches showed the style of Tutankhamun’s time. There was94 no apparent attempt at re-appropriation, but only at re-activation of a violated piece. The undamaged figures of kings Thutmose III (Cairo CG 42066) and Amenhotep II (CG 42065) were not altered and kept their original features. Ramesses II, on the contrary, seized the opportunity of restoring the Turin group to update it completely and reattribute it to himself.

We are particularly grateful for the comments of several colleagues, including our anonymous peer-reviewers.73 This statue requires careful methodological analysis and special care is required when interpreting traces of ancient restorations. The type of restoration that the piece underwent, with the face of the god Amun consisting of a separate piece plugged into the main body of the statue, is characteristic of post-Amarna manipulations carried out on Amun’s images damaged during the reign of Akhenaten. The above in-depth stylistic and iconographic analysis shows how complex a process this can be.

Through the various stages of its life, which have left traces on its surface, this example illustrates the importance that the ancient Egyptians granted to statues. These were not only objects of great material value, produced in prestigious materials after hundreds of hours of work by specialised sculptors invested with the task by the state. They were also magical works, endowed with power, which could be activated by means of offerings, rituals, and specific changes, restorations and transformations. By means of such alterations, an ancient object could be given a new life. The statue, even when mutilated, remained imbued with an aura that served to perpetuate the topos of the royal restorer, guarantor of order and main actor of the cult.


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