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Head of a Sphinx of Senwosret III

unknown1878 BC - 1843 BC

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

Stylistic characteristics allow us to identify this expressive face as a portrait of King Senwosret III. His serious, hard expression is in contrast to the idealizing depictions of other pharaohs. His face is framed by the striped headdress that emphasizes the sitter’s large, prominent ears. Note the Uraeus on his forehead; it was part of royal attire. “Uraeus” is derived from the ancient Egyptian word iaret which translates as the “rearing one”. The stylized, upright form of an attacking cobra was believed to ward off evil and protect the king from his enemies. Despite the damages it has suffered, the royal face has lost none of its power. We find the same sunken eyes with heavy lids and lines under the eyes in many other portraits of Senwosret III. The headdress extending backwards and some details along the broken base show that this was originally the head of a sphinx, i.e. attached to the body of a lion. This type of statue was already popular for royal sculptures in the Old Kingdom: conflating a human head with the body of the powerful lion impressively conveyed royal authority, particularly the king’s divine – in addition to his mortal, human - identity. All depictions of Senwosret III are marked by a realistic, unmistakable individuality; one could almost speak of a portrait-likeness. His determined, fierce expression also denotes his political goals: Senwosnet III was able to break the power of the provincial rulers that had dramatically increased during the First Intermediate Period; at the same time his campaigns in Nubia and Palestine greatly expanded the empire.
© Regina Hölzl, Meisterwerke der Ägyptisch-Orientalischen Sammlung, Wien 2007.

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Head of a Sphinx of Senwosret III (Supplemental)

Head of a Sphinx of Senwosret III (Supplemental)

Head of a Sphinx of Senwosret III (Supplemental)

Head of a Sphinx of Senwosret III (Supplemental)

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