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Statue of Ramesses II, the 'Younger Memnon'

British Museum

British Museum

One of the largest pieces of Egyptian sculpture in the British Museum, this statue shows Ramesses II, who succeeded his father Sethos I in around 1279 BC and ruled Egypt for 67 years.

Weighing 7.25 tons, this fragment of his statue was cut from a single block of two-coloured granite. He is shown wearing the nemes headdress surmounted by a cobra diadem.

The sculptor has used a slight variation of normal conventions to relate his work to the viewer, angling the eyes down slightly, so that the statue relates more to those looking at it.

It was retrieved from the mortuary temple of Ramesses at Thebes (the 'Ramesseum') by the explorer and archaeologist Giovanni Belzoni in 1816. Belzoni wrote a fascinating account of his struggle to remove it, both literally, given its colossal size, and politically. The hole on the right of the torso is said to have been made by members of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt at the end of the eighteenth century, in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the statue.

The imminent arrival of the head in England in 1818 inspired the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to write 'Ozymandias':

'... My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

After its arrival in the British Museum, the 'Younger Memnon' was perhaps the first piece of Egyptian sculpture to be recognized as a work of art by connoisseurs, who traditionally judged things by the standards of ancient Greek art.

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Details

  • Title: Statue of Ramesses II, the 'Younger Memnon'
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 266.80cm (max); Width: 203.30cm (max;across shoulders)
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: .19
  • Place: Found/Acquired Ramesseum
  • Period/culture: 19th Dynasty
  • Material: granodiorite; red granite
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Salt, Henry. Donated by Burckhardt, Johann Ludwig. Collected by Belzoni, Giovanni Battista
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