Kushite Pharaoh

Period: Late Period, Kushite

Dynasty: Dynasty 25

Date: ca. 713–664 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt and Sudan, Nubia

Medium: Bronze; precious-metal leaf

Dimensions: h. 7.6 cm (3 in.); w. 3.2 cm (1 1/4 in); d. 3.6 cm (1 3/8 in)

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift and Anne and John V. Hansen Egyptian Purchase Fund, 2002

Accession Number: 2002.8


This small figure has a very large aura—its taut beauty and bold features express an intense energy and focus. That it is a Kushite pharaoh of Egypt is clear from its distinctive Sudanese regalia, discernible despite the efforts of an Egyptian king, ruling some seventy years later, to make the statuette more suitably conformist: the ram's-head necklace was hammered out, the Kushite double uraeus was recut to a single one, and the king's name on the belt was erased. The cap crown with a falcon engraved in the back, the bandeau with streamers, and the diadem with many tiny uraei were left untouched. The king's narrowed eyes and large, forward-thrusting jaw do not resemble the few identifiable images of the Kushite kings, which disproportionately represent Taharqo (r. ca. 690–664 B.C.). A relatively early date is possible for the present object.

When the Kushites conquered Egypt in the mid-eighth century B.C., they saw themselves as recapturing part of an ancient homeland that had fallen away from proper observance of the gods. Consequently, their rule is distinguished by fine bronze temple statuary—small, kneeling kings meant to match the small, precious-metal divine image in the temple, to insulate it through devotion, to satisfy the gods, and to restore their blessings to Egypt.