Clark Craddock-Willis 3/12/12 Arch 0150-Laurel Bestock The Colossal Statue of King Menkaure When I visited the

Boston Museum of Fine Arts, I was simply struck by the Colossal Statue of Menkaure (museum number 09.204). Its grand nature made me feel the same admiration of the great King Menkaure in 2012 that the artist intended so many thousands of years ago. Sculpted from clear alabaster stone, the statue was found in separate pieces by George Reisner as he excavated the third pyramid at Giza’s temple.1 According to the museum plaque dedicated to the sculpture, it was carved sometime between 2490-2472 B.C. during the 4th dynasty’s rule and this is evidenced, primarily, by it being a representation of the 4th dynasty ruler Menkaure. The statue is sculpted meticulously and it was Reisner who noted that, whoever the sculptor was, “His treatment of the muscles, tendons, and patella in the knees of the large alabaster statue of Mycerinus (no. 1) is unexampled in the history of Egyptian art…striving for a life-like portrait of the face he was reproducing.”2 Menkaure’s is depicted wearing the classic, kingly nemes with a uraeus wrapped around his forehead as well. These are both royal symbols with the nemes being the royal headdress, and uraeus the serpent deity protector. His narrow beard is also a representation of kingship. His hand is clutching a folded cloth that spreads onto his thigh, an Egyptian symbol for authority.3 He is also wearing a kilt with a central projection, something reserved only for kings until after the old dynasty.4 Still, there are some questions as to whether this is an actual representation of the great ruler for a

1

Reisner, George Andrew. Mycerinus, the Temples of the Third Pyramid at Giza,. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1931. Print. 2 Ibid., 3 Kemp, Barry J. 100 Hieroglyphs: Think like an Egyptian. New York: Penguin Group, 2005. Print. 4 Boston Museum of Fine arts, 09.204

Clark Craddock-Willis 3/12/12 Arch 0150-Laurel Bestock variety of reasons. Even Reisner seems to come to the conclusion only based on location and circumstance, not necessarily because of the facial features.5 And this even though he seems to have found the pieces separate and the statue purposely destroyed.6 The Menkaure in this statue is pictured younger than in the other, more famous representation of him, King Menkaure and his Queen. He also appears to have a certain “supreme control”7 in his aura, along with a strong and imposing frame, very different than his other image with his wife holding him. This depiction seemed more fitting in my mind for such a grand king at one of the first “golden ages” of the Egyptian people. Reisner actually proposes that these two versions of the King that appear are represented by two different sculptors: “{sculptor} A (the severe type) and {sculptor} B (the softer rounded type),” and lists other sculptures that could have been crafted by the two;8 however, there is no documentation of either of their existences or some competition between them. The statue is also striking for the oddly small head of King Menkaure in relation to the rest of his body. Egyptians are not known to be have carelessly poor proportions in statues, and some claim that this is either to emphasize Menkaure’s large shoulders or perhaps because it was supposed to be seen from below, with people looking up the great king.9 It should be noted that the head was not found with the rest of the pieces but 2 months later in a “robber’s trench.”10 Reisner, however, writes that:

5

Reisner, George Andrew. Mycerinus, the Temples of the Third Pyramid at Giza,. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1931. Print. 6 Ibid., 7 Boston Mueseum of Fine Arts, 09.204 8 Reisner, George Andrew. Mycerinus, the Temples of the Third Pyramid at Giza,. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1931. Print. 9 Mueseum of Fine Arts, 09.204 10 Boston museum of fine arts, 09.204

Clark Craddock-Willis 3/12/12 Arch 0150-Laurel Bestock “The same relation between head and shoulders is seen in the statue of Rahotep from Medún (in Cairo); and the workmanship of that statue, as well as of the Mycerinus {Menkaure} statue, is so fine that the form given must be assumed to have been intentional. In all probability Mycerinus and Rahotep were actually distinguished by unusually heavy shoulders. Rahotep was a member of the royal family of dynasty IV”11 Was the fourth family dynasty simply hereditarily “heavy shouldered” as Reisner suggests? Why, then, is this same depiction not present in the sculpture of Menkaure and His Queen? It is interesting to think about what problems the artist may have encountered. Or, if the statue was purposefully proportioned and, as the museum plaque said, it is because it was to be viewed from the kneeling position, while one bowed below Menkaure’s might.12 The statue’s purpose, as hinted at by the museum, was to accept offering and to be seen in the great king’s temple.13 It’s grandiose nature gives evidence to the idea that the statue was supposed to be seen and praised by the king’s old subjects and loyalists. This is one of the largest statues to be found from the 4th dynasty period, and perhaps the people saw their king as larger than life as well. Perhaps that is the reason for his broadshouldered body, his calmly collected face, and the cool, kingly aura depicted. A great king deserves to be remembered as the strong broad-shouldered king he is depicted as here.

11

Reisner, George Andrew. Mycerinus, the Temples of the Third Pyramid at Giza,. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1931. Print. 12 Boston museum of fine arts, 09.204
13 Ibid.,

Clark Craddock-Willis 3/12/12 Arch 0150-Laurel Bestock Works Cited Kemp, Barry J. 100 Hieroglyphs: Think like an Egyptian. New York: Penguin Group, 2005. Print. Reisner, George Andrew. Mycerinus, the Temples of the Third Pyramid at Giza,. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1931. Print. Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 09.204

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