Sekhmet was the divine consort of Ptah, the chief god of Memphis in Lower Egypt. She later came to be identified with the goddess Mut, who was similarly the consort of the chief god of Thebes, in Upper Egypt, Amun. The present statue probable once stood among over six hundred images of Sekhmet, goddess of war and protector of the king, which adorned the courts and passageways of the great temple Amenhotep III built in honor of the goddess Mut at Thebes and where some still stand in the ruins of that complex. Thus what Yoyotte describes as a “monumental litany of granite” was probably in part a result of Theban desire to promote Amun as lord of all Egypt and chief of all gods. See Elizabeth Riefstahl, Thebes in the Time of Amenhotep III, Norman, Oklahoma, 1964, p. 62. William Hayes writes that “minor variations in style and proportions show that a number of different sculptors worked on the production of these statues, which though designed primarily as oft-repeated accents in a grandiose religio-architectural scheme, are in individual instances monuments of great beauty, dignity, and technical excellence.” (William C. Hayes, The Scepter of Egypt, Part II, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1959, p. 239.)
Cf. A.P. Kozloff, B.M. Bryan, and L.M. Berman, Egypt’s Dazzling Sun, Amenhotep III and His World, Cleveland, 1992, no. 34 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), R. Fazzini, Images for Eternity, Egyptian Art from Berkeley and Brooklyn, Brooklyn, 1975, no. 56 (Berkeley), D. Wildung and G. Grimm, Götter, Pharaonen, Mainz, 1978, no. 31 (Cairo), and J.F. Romano, K. Parlasca, and J.M. Rogers, The Luxor Museum of Ancient Egyptian Art, Cairo, 1971, nos. 110 and 111; also compare Sotheby's, New York, December 12th, 2013, no. 9, and December 14th, 1994, no. 30.
See Kozloff, Bryan, and Berman op. cit., Chapter VII, pp. 215-236, “Royal and Divine Images in Animal Form,” for a recent discussion of these representations. The authors note “It is important to realize that the New Kingdom Egyptians did not worship animals, but rather personifications of the power associated with them. Quite often gods exhibited threatening aspects requiring appeasement to encourage the benevolent divine nature. A lion is dangerous particularly when hungry or enraged, but also protects its family. The domesticated cat, identified with a number of goddesses, was seen as the propitiated fireside form of the prowling desert lioness.”
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