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HOME : Egyptian Antiquities : Archive : Bronze Portrait of a Kushite Pharaoh as a Child God
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Bronze Portrait of a Kushite Pharaoh as a Child God - LO.1061
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 720 BC to 644 BC
Dimensions: 7" (17.8cm) high
Collection: Egyptian antiquities
Medium: Bronze

Additional Information: SOLD

Location: Great Britain
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This is truly one of the more remarkable ancient Egyptian pharaonic portraits to have appeared on the art market in recent years. The representation is that of a young, nude male, originally seated on either a throne, or quite possibly the lap of a goddess. His legs are bent at the knees with his feet placed together and resting on an integral base. His arms are held along the sides of his body and bent at the elbows in order to follow the contour of his seated posture. To that end, his hands, palms open and facing down, at held at the sides of his thighs.

Our bronze can be securely dated to Dynasty XXV, the Kushite Period, because of the unique combination of accessories with which our child god is adorned. These include a ram headed necklace, an insignia reserved exclusively for pharaohs of that dynasty of which actual examples in both gold and semi-precious stones are known. The two horizontal bands across the forehead of our pharaoh would suggest that he is wearing a tightly-fitting cap crown to which is attached the side lock of youth. The cap crown is fronted by two uraei, or sacred cobras, which were created in the round and project upward into space. The proper left uraeus wears the White Crown of Upper Egypt on its head, and one can cogently argue that there was a corresponding Red Crown of Lower Egypt on the head of the proper right uraeus. The double uraeus, which is virtually reserved for depictions of Nubian pharaohs, would seem to indicate that the Kushites are proclaiming their legitimacy as pharaohs of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Among the known corpus of royal representations of pharaohs of the Kushite Period, our portrait is virtually the only known sculpture showing the king as a child god, although this motif is well-attested in royal, two- dimensional relief representations, as a vignette of a king in the lap of a goddess in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum demonstrates. Without any accompanying inscriptions, it is difficult to suggest an identification of the particular Kushite pharaoh represented by our bronze figure, and that difficulty is compounded by the idealizing features of the face which lack distinctive features. One may, nevertheless, cautiously associate our portrait with images of Pharaoh Taharqa, the Kushite pharaoh with the statistically greatest number of known bronze representations. He was, perhaps, the most celebrated of all Kushite rulers of Egypt and is commemorated by two mentions in the Old Testament as a champion of the Children of Israel against the aggression of the Assyrians.


On the Kushites in general and Taharqa in particular, see, Robert Steven Bianchi, Daily Life of the Nubians (Westport, Ct., 2004), pages 147 -212, especially pages 167-175, and page 203, for an illustration of the relief in Brooklyn ostensibly depicting Taharqa as a child god in the lap of a goddess. For Nubian regalia, see, S. Wenig, Africa in Antiquity II (Brooklyn 1978), pages 166, catalogue number 75, and pages 182-184, catalogue numbers 97-100, for four of these ram-headed pendants. Consult, Marsha Hill, Royal Bronze Statuary from Ancient Egypt (Leiden 2004), plates 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 40, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, and 48, for a large selection of bronze depictions of Kushite pharaohs, none of which depict the pharaoh as a child god, and only a very few of which approach the quality of our portrait.

-Dr. Robert Steven Bianchi

- (LO.1061)


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