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A Study of the Statue of Amenhemhatankh

Updated on September 9, 2014

Keeper of the Secrets

The hieroglyphs carved on the front of the skirt of the statue and on the back pillar tell us that Amenemhat-ankh, whose name signifies "King Amenemhat lives' was Keeper of the Secrets of (the god) Ptah-Sokarat Memphis and Chief Prophet of Shedet under Amenemhat III (1842-1797 B.C.). Shedet was the capital of the province of Fayum and the hometown of the crocodile-god Sobek. In the reign of Amenemhat III, the Twelfth Dynasty was at the peak of prosperity and artistic vigour. This work is among the finest private statues of its period.

Made of brown crystalline sandstone


Supreme skill

Following traditions established at the beginning of Egyptian history, one thousand years earlier, the statue is incompletely freed from the block of stone in which it was conceived: it has no undercutting and is solidly in one piece with its supporting back-pillar and base. There is some restoration on the nose, feet and base. Supreme skill and perfect familiarity with the hard material enabled the sculptor to create a work that was designed to endure. He was not required to express the action of a single moment nor even to portray his patron at a given time of life.

The importance of duration also dictated the rigid formality of the pose. Although many Egyptian statues are striking likenesses of their owners this piece is so idealized in its statement of continuing personal existence that it cannot be considered a portrait.

Aristocratic ideal of human dignity

The simple lines of the costume, consisting only of a long skirt and a flowing wig, enhance the fine modelling of the bare shoulders and arms. The treatment of the conventional pose, with hands placed on the stiff fold of the skirt, harmonizes with the simplified modelling of the face. The idealized personality of Amenemhat-ankh is focused in this face, where seriousness is relieved by the shadow of a smile, and where the physiognomy of the powerful statues of Amenemhat 111 is faintly reflected as a symbolical tribute to the king under whom he served.

The statue which nominally represents its owner Amenemhat-ankh may or may not represent him with physical or spiritual truth, but it undoubtedly represents an aristocratic ideal of human dignity, prestige and charm and testifies to the supreme talent of its anonymous sculptor.

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    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Beautiful. I've always found Egyptian art fascinating. I used to love to go to the Brooklyn Museum when I lived in NY, they do have an amazing exhibit. Nice hub.