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Menkaure and His Queen

Menkaure and His Queen

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A part of history of humankind reveals itself in the sands of Egypt, where once under the Sun were great kingdoms. It is important to know more about the ancient traces of this old civilization in order to understand the world around a human being more substantially. The paper aims at analyzing the artifact under the title “Menkaure and His Queen.”

The object of consideration is a statue. It depicts the pharaoh Menkaure (sometimes spelled as Mycerinus) and a woman that is commonly recognized as a queen. It is a representation of two figures that are shown at a full-length standing. The pharaoh Menkaure is related to Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. His is also the builder of one of the three main pyramids, along with the pyramid of Cheops and Chephren. The sculpture may be seen in the museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

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The statue “Menkaure and His Queen” was found in January 1910 by Andrew Reisner during the expedition of the Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts (Witcomber, 2000). The excavation works in the Valley Temple on the Giza Plateau, undertaken at the pyramid of Menkaure, helped to uncover the statue by the method of digging. Archeologist discovered the heads of the artifact at first. The whole statue was unearthed on the following day. It was disclosed in the part of the corridor of the Valley Temple that is known as “Thieves Hole.” The intended location is unknown. It could have been created to stand in the king’s tomb, as such works of art were usually designed for the elite only. The royal tomb sculpture was intended to represent the glory and might of the rulers , “manifesting the nature of the pharaoh's authority over his subjects and by extension as embodying the highly regulated, hierarchical structure of Ancient Egyptian society” (Witcombe, 2000, n.p.).

The statue itself is an interesting object. Unfortunately, the artist is unidentified. According to the informatin given on the site of the museum of Fine Arts, the sculpture is from greywacke and has the following dimensions: overall size is 142.2 x 57.1 x 55.2 cm; weight – 676.8 kg; block (wooden skirts and two top): 53.3 x 180 x 179.7 cm (Museum of Fine Arts). The sculpture is dated 2548-2530 BC. 

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The statue depicts the king and the woman. The two people are almost of the same height, which is not a common thing to see in the known sculptures of Egypt. Their poses are relaxed, thought it may seem that carved people walk together. The right hand of the women is around the waist of the pharaoh. Her left hand rests on Menkaure’s arm, while his hands are at his sides with clenched fists. The king has the nemes on his head, but no uraeus. He wears an artificial beard, and a kilt with a tab. These elements confirm his royal position. The statue is odd and unusual because of the picture it shows: the head of Menkaure is slightly turned to the left, while the woman looks forward in a way that indicates she may be seen as the main subject of the composition. They are both rather detached and show no emotions. They do not look at each other. The personality of the woman is not recognized. Because her pose is different from normally designed ones, there are only various theories that appeared during the studies of the statue. The first theory was suggested by Reisner himself, who assumed the woman was his wife named Khamerernebty II (according to the title). However, it is improbable because she does not have her small pyramids like other wives of Menkaure. Perhaps the woman is his mother Khamerernebty – her figure is not perfect and may suggest the idea that the woman has given birth; although, she looks young.  It is possible that the woman near Menkaure is the goddess Hathor, but she does not illustrate any divine attributes and is of the same height as the pharaoh. There is a low-probability that it is the queen Khamerernebty II (she did not have small pyramids like other wifes of Menkaure).

The scculpture is interesting not only because the partner of the pharaoh is unknown but  also because it lacks a few details. The statue was discovered in a good condition, though it was not a complete object from the beginning. Some features are unfinished, for example, striations or any other marks on the hair of the woman and king’s nemes (as it was mentioned above). As for  the basis, it has never been inscribed. The statue was not fully polished, just heads and upper body parts. It used to be painted but  not finally carved. “Menkaure and his Queen” looks like it was finished in a hurry. It could happen because Menkaure died suddenly, before the object was properly done. The completion of the statue was probably hasted by the pharaoh’s successor Shepseskaf (Thompson & Der Manuelian, 2008, p.111).

The sculpture is unique in its general picture. There are no other carved images that demonstrate a pharaoh and a woman of such power that are embodied and rendered in a statue of the same size. The dimensions of the woman are too small for a goddess and too big for a queen. They stand on one plinth, both to be respected and glorified by people. There are triad sculptures where Menkaure is exposed with the goddess Hathor and one of his queens, but the positions are obvious there. The figure of the woman is the dominant attribute that distinguishes this work of art from others.

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When one observes the statue, he or she may feel and absorb the energy of ancient glory and power coming from it. The figures were without doubt highly respected. It was even spared by time, so all the magnificence was unspoiled and preserved. It must be kept in mind that the piece of art is not finished, though, it strikes with supreme and impressive authority that is emphasized by the size and postures. A common assumption is that the sculpture displays the pharaoh Menkaure and his Queen. However, her real name is not identified and we may never know the secrete of this lady carved from the stone.

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