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46

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF W. ARNOLD MEIJER, THE NETHERLANDS

An Indurated Limestone Head of Princess Nebetah, reign of Amenhotep III, 1390-1353 B.C.
Estimate
100,000150,000
LOT SOLD. 206,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
46

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF W. ARNOLD MEIJER, THE NETHERLANDS

An Indurated Limestone Head of Princess Nebetah, reign of Amenhotep III, 1390-1353 B.C.
Estimate
100,000150,000
LOT SOLD. 206,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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An Indurated Limestone Head of Princess Nebetah, reign of Amenhotep III, 1390-1353 B.C.

daughter of Amenhotep III and his Great Wife Queen Tiy, wearing a round wig of radiating echeloned rectangular curls surmounted by a diadem, the trace of a sidelock remaining, her face with finely carved elongated almond-shaped eyes with folds on the upper lids and long tapering eyebrows and cosmetic lines.


Height 10 7/8 in. 27.6 cm.
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Provenance

Medinet Habu, southern gateway of the mortuary complex of Amenhotep III
French private collection, Lyon,  formed in the early part of the 20th century
Jean-Loup Despras, Galerie Orient Occident, Paris
Jean-Philippe Mariaud de Serres, Paris, and Anubis Ancient Art, Rotterdam
Drouot, Paris, November 11th, 2001, no. 219, illus.

Exhibited

Allard Pierson Museum, Archeological Museum of the University of Amsterdam, November 17th, 2006 – March 25th, 2007

Literature

Objects for Eternity, Egyptian Antiquities from the W. Arnold Meijer Collection, Carol A.R. Andrews and Jacobus van Dijk, eds., Mainz, 2006, pp. 135-137, no. 2.38, illus.

Catalogue Note

The author writes (Objects for Eternity, pp. 135-136): "This extraordinary head of a princess, even in its damaged state, is one of the masterpieces of the imperial age of Egypt's Sun King Amenhotep III. Its formal elegance and austere carving style are hallmarks of the period and clearly demonstrate why this king's reign ranks among the highest points in the history of Egyptian art.

When viewed from the front it might be assumed that the statue of the princess was free standing, but examination of the left side of the head tells us otherwise. The carving of the tube curls on the left side of the wig stops exactly halfway to the back, where one's line of sight stops when viewing the head from the front. From that point on the wig is smooth with no carved curls. The last three vertical rows of curls are less finely carved than those in the front. The unfinished nature of this side of the head implies that the princess was standing beside another, larger figure or element which hid the left side of her head from view. Although Amenhotep III may have sired as many as sixteen daughters, the names of only five are known to us: Sitamun, Henuttaneb, Isis, Nebetah, and perhaps Baketaten. Three daughters appear on the colossal indurated limestone family group of Amenhotep III and Tiye from the vicinity of Medinet Habu, standing beside the legs of their much larger-scale parents. They are, from left to right: Nebetah, Henuttaneb, and one other whose name is missing (perhaps Isis). This enormous statue, at least 7 meters in height, was originally set up at the great southern entryway to Amenhotep III's mortuary temple precinct. It was found in the late 19th century in pieces, and was later restored in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, where it continues to be the centerpiece of the museum atrium.

When a cast of the fracture area was fitted to the body of the princess it proved a perfect match. This is therefore the first occasion to assign a name to the princess's face: Nebetah, daughter of King Amenhotep III, born of the great royal wife Queen Tiye.

Evidence suggests that this colossal family group once graced the southern gateway of Amenhotep III's sprawling mortuary complex in the cultivation to the east and north of Medinet Habu.  Ramesses III appropriated two similarly scaled but separate colossal indurated limestone seated statues of Tiye and Amenhotep III from the same gateway and set them up in his mortuary temple at Medinet Habu where he reinscribed them for his mother and himself respectively, following the programme of Ramesses II in the Ramesseum. These two statues, whose bases still survive at the back of his second court on either side of the ramp leading up to the sanctuary area, were destroyed by the later Christian inhabitants of Jeme/Medinet Habu when they converted that court into a church, and now survive only in fragments, but were probably pendant to the Cairo Museum group.

The unvandalized condition of the faces of Amenhotep III and Tiye suggest that the upper part of the colossal group at least had fallen and was buried at the time that the princess was damaged, either through seismic activity or quarrying of the statue base. The condition of the princess's head suggests that it was intentionally struck off the body, perhaps in the medieval period, and was partially exposed on the ground for some time during which the wear to the front occurred.  This must have taken some time as indurated limestone is extremely hard and does not wear easily. The whole fallen group seems never to have been entirely buried, but stuck out of the cultivation in a pile of limestone fragments. The princess's head must have been found and removed before 1897, the year that Georges Daressy moved the shattered remnants of the group to the forecourt of the small Amun temple at Medinet Habu nearby. The fragments were later moved to Cairo and restored as the centerpiece of the new Egyptian Museum for its opening in 1902.

This named representation of the princess, daughter of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye and sister of Akhenaten, is the only reference to this individual to survive antiquity, and thus makes the head unique. The join of head to body brings new life to an enigmatic princess, and adds another precious piece to the ever-growing puzzle of this most remarkable royal family."

An exact copy of this head was given to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and it has been placed on the statue.

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