King as Horus-the-Child, Dyn. 12

King as Horus-the-Child, Dyn. 12
Period:Egypt, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, Amenemhat I/Sehetepibre
Dating:1991 BC–1782 BC
Origin:Egypt, Lower Egypt, Lisht
Physical:19cm. (7.4 in.) - 1410 g. (49.8 oz.)

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Links to others from Dynasty 12

Bronze mirror, double Horus, Dyn. 12
Bronze of Goddess Nebethetepet, Dyn. 12
Ka statue of King Amenemhet III, Dyn. 12
Limestone shawabti, Dyn. 12
Limestone shawabti, Dyn. 12
New year flask, royal gift of sacred water
Panel from outer wooden coffin, Dyn. 12
Queen as Isis nursing, Dyn. 12
Scarab of Senusret I, Dyn. 12
Scarab with Lord Ptah, Dyn. 12
Scarab with Ra and four cobras, Dyn. 12
Scarab with Thot Ka Ra, Dyn. 12
Shawabti of Im-Neferw-Neb, Dyn. 12
Shawabti ‘substitute of the dead’, Dyn.12
Shawabti, ‘substitute of the dead’, Dyn.12
Stone head of a king, Dyn. 12
Wood statue of Amenemhat II, Dyn. 12

Links to others of type Statuette-man

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Bronze of a king as Osiris, Dyn. 26
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Horus-the-Child as a ruling king, Dyn. 18
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Horus-the-Child, Ptolemaic, 304-30 BC
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Osiris, King of the Afterlife, Dyn. 22
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Osiris-Neper, god of agriculture, Dyn. 25
Porphyry statue of Alexander The Great
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Stone head of a king, Dyn. 12
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Wood statue of Amenemhat II, Dyn. 12
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  This bronze statuette represents an adult king as Horus-the-Child (also known as Harpocrates). Following the traditional iconography of Horus-the-Child, the king is shown nude (as Egyptian children often were) and wearing the “hair lock of youth” on the right side. His head is capped with the royal headdress called the nemes and was originally topped with the exuberant triple atef (also called hemhemet) crown, consisting at the minimum of curly ram’s horns, three bundles of papyrus made to look like the White Crowns of Upper Egypt then topped with solar disks, and a pair of ostrich feathers. Only the base of the horns now remains. Although much of the limbs are also lost, enough is left to tell that the king was represented striding, left foot forward, and that his right arm was raised, with his right index brought to his lips, following the ritual pose for Harpocrates.

The general style—wide face, large eyes, thick lips and large exposed ears—is suggestive of the Middle Kingdom. The jewelry worn by the king—three rows of vertical beads from which hang five oval pendants and, most importantly, the amulet hanging from a cord—confirms its Dynasty 12 appurtenance, as explained by Russman (2001:105):
“This amulet, found on royal statues from the middle of the Twelfth Dynasty on, appears on the majority of Sesostris III [aka: Senusret IIII] statues, rarely on representations of Amenemhet III, and at least once at the very end of Dynasty 12. Since Egyptian kings were rarely shown wearing jewelry, other than the standard collar necklace and bracelets, occasionally paired with armlets and/or anklets, this amulet is intriguing. To some, it looks like a double little pouch, pierced by a thorn. to others it resembles certain amulets of the late Old Kingdom, some of which are equally enigmatic.”

Senusret III’s facial features are very distinctive, and this statuette does not match them. Remaining likely candidates are therefore Senusret II, Amenemhet III, and Amenemhet IV.

Note: The bronze alloy is unusually dense.

The falcon god Horus embodies one of the most fundamental tenets of Egyptian religious and political beliefs. “According to the Turin Canon [a papyrus from the time of Ramses II], the late Predynastic rulers of Egypt were ‘followers of Horus’. By the time of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt in 3000 BC, the ruler was Horus” (Hart 1986:89). Therefore unlike, say, medieval European kings, Egyptian kings were not ‘kings by the grace of God.’ They were not born as gods either. Instead, it is upon their enthronement that Egyptian kings became the embodiment on earth of the god Horus. They would remain the earthly manifestation of Horus throughout their lives, until the next king became inhabited by the god.

As central as he is to Egyptian thought, Horus often escapes our comprehension and frustrates our modern want for clear unique explanations of concepts. Egyptians were perhaps more comfortable than we are with some fifteen different manifestations of Horus (Horus the Elder, Horus the Child, Hariese, Harakhti, Horus of Behdet, Harmachis, Horus of Nekhen, Horus of Mesen, etc.), his various forms (falcon, falcon-headed man, sun disk, and child with a side lock of hair), and his ever changing filiation (son of Geb and Nut, or son of Hator, or son of Ra, or son of Isis and Osiris) (Armour 2001:71). Some of this confusion arises from geographical and temporal variations which have been flattened from our current vantage point. Yet, some of the complexity remains. “. . . at Edfu, Horus appears as the consort of Hathor and the father of another form of himself, Harsomtus” (Redford 2002:166).

Few Egyptian gods remained important in all periods, in all regions, and in all strata of society. Horus may be a rare exception. He was prominent at the birth of the nation, and was still prominent three thousand five hundred years later when the last Egyptian temple—the temple of Philae—was shut down by Justinian in 550 AD. In all his variations, Horus was not only present in both upper and lower Egypt, but could be claimed as a ‘local god’ in many places. More importantly, although Horus was the quintessential official god of the powerful, he was also a god close to ordinary Egyptians, as demonstrated by the popularity of ceppis (Horus the child standing over crocodiles) and Udjat eyes (the eye of Horus) as devices to ask the god for help warding off pain, disease, and fears.

“The iconography of Horus either influenced, or was appropriated, in early Christian art. Isis and the baby Horus may be seen as the precursor for Mary and the infant Jesus; Horus dominating the beasts may have a counterpart in Christ Pantokaor doing the same; and Horus spearing a serpent may survive in the iconography of Saint George defeating the dragon” (Redford 2002:167).

“As a cosmic deity Horus is imagined as a falcon whose wings are the sky and whose right eye is the sun and left eye the moon” (Hart 1986:94).

Bibliography (for this item)

Clayton, Peter A.
1994 Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. Thames and Hudson, London, UK. (77-78)

Khalil, Hassan M.
1976 Preliminary Studies on the Sanusret Collection. Manuscript, Musée l’Egypte et le Monde Antique, Monaco-Ville, Monaco. ([2]9-11)

Russmann, Edna R.
2001 Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum. University of California Press, Berkeley. (105)

Bibliography (on Horus)

Hart, George
1986 A Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, United Kingdom. (94)

Redford, Donald B.
2002 The Ancient Gods Speak. Oxford University Press, New York, NY. (166)

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