The beautiful lady of Licht

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Head of the female statue – painted wood with gilding
Middle Kingdom – XIIth Dynasty
Provenance: Zone of the pyramid of Amenemhat to Licht – Excavations of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – 1907
Egyptian Museum Cairo – JE 39380

The Head of a mysterious beautiful Lady. by Marie Grillot 🙏💖 with Marc Chartier as always much appreciated 🙂

PS; Licht in German means light 😉

Translated from French via https://egyptophile.blogspot.com/

The face is noble, perfectly symmetrical, veins of light wood give it a sense of life. The general expression is soft, calm, soothed. Large almond eyes, of which only the orbit remains, are absent. And despite everything, they question us … What presence did she give to the face? What did they show? Did the glass paste and the rock crystal subtly and luminously enliven their pupils? These questions remain forever unanswered. The eyebrows are treated in relief, while the line of makeup is treated in hollow. The nose is well proportioned, the lips are fine, the slight injury they suffered reminds us of the pangs of time.

Head of the female statue – painted wood with gilding
Middle Kingdom – XIIth Dynasty
Provenance: Zone of the pyramid of Amenemhat to Licht – Excavations of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – 1907
Egyptian Museum Cairo – JE 39380

What obviously impresses in this head of just over 10 cm, is the wide wig that framed it generously and should arrive at the shoulders, now missing. “The enveloping mass of the reported hair is worked in a darker wood and blackened with paint, it is attached to the head in lighter wood, using tenons.” The hair is black and fragments of gold, like so many small square touches bringing light and femininity, dot them. “The fact that the wig is particularly thin at the top, relative to the width of the lateral parts, suggests the presence of a crown or diadem.”

Head of female statue – painted wood with gilding
Middle Kingdom – XIIth Dynasty
Provenance: Zone of the pyramid of Amenemhat to Licht – Excavations of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – 1907
Egyptian Museum Cairo – JE 39380

Who was this beautiful lady? A queen, a princess, a prominent person at the court of the sovereign? The quality of the work, the mastery of the artist, leave indeed to think that it can come from the workshops of Pharaoh. From the statue that represented it, in the foot, there remains only that face that does not identify it. Only her arms were found two years later in Situ.

The female statue head painted wood with gilding is often reproduced
Middle Kingdom – XIIth Dynasty
Provenance: Zone of the pyramid of Amenemhat to Licht – Excavations of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – 1907

This head – which is also often used as a model to illustrate the beauty of the Egyptian women of antiquity – was discovered in 1907 in Lower Egypt, precisely in Licht, between Daschour and Meidoum. The city of Licht was created by Pharaoh Amenemhat I. “Not only to detach from Thebes and the followers of the last Montuhotep but also to keep an eye on the north and the Asian border, the city became the main royal residence during the twelfth and thirteenth dynasties … today give it another reality and another archaeological dimension than those that associate it with the two funerary monuments today reduced to two mounds: the pyramids of Amenemhat I and Sesostris I. ” (Egypt restored, T3, Sydney Aufrère, Jean-Claude Golvin).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art excavation site in New York on Licht site in 1907 with the discovery of the female statue head in painted wood with gilding (JE 39380) of the XIIth Dynasty

As early as 1882, Gaston Maspero undertook excavations on the site, which had then enabled the identification of the pyramids. For practical reasons (there were sometimes up to 11 m of water, he said), however, he could not go to the funeral chamber. The study of the site was then resumed in 1894-1895 by the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology.

Then, in 1906, while Maspero was at the head of the Antiquities Department, the Metropolitan Museum of Art applied for and obtained the concession, and then settled for several seasons of excavations. Indeed, the Egyptian Department of MMA was created October 15, 1906, and its directors, and its new director, Alfred Morton Lythgoe, see there the interest of enriching their knowledge, their experience and their collections.

Thus, under the joint direction of the director, Herbert Eustis Winlock (Harvard) and Arthur C. Mace (Oxford), their first campaign, financed by private funds.150 workers are recruited: some, already ‘trained’ in excavations, come from Upper Egypt, others from neighbouring villages; their number will continue to grow over the years.

Head of the female statue – painted wood with gilding
Middle Kingdom – XIIth Dynasty
Provenance: Zone of the pyramid of Amenemhat to Licht
Excavations of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – 1907
Egyptian Museum Cairo – JE 39380
Reproduced for the first time in “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin” (No. 10 – Oct.1907)

The exact circumstances of the discovery of the head are not explained by Albert Lythgoe. In the October 1907 bulletin of the MMA, while it appears in the photo with the caption “Figure 2. Head of the wooden statuette from Lisht, 12th dynasty”, no details are given on the place where it was found. The author relates that the excavations concerned two sectors: that of the cemetery located to the west of the pyramid of Amenemhat, which delivered tombs of important figures of the XIIth dynasty, as well as an area located on a promontory. In all, more than 100 tombs were discovered for most of the twelfth dynasty. As the head is illustrative, opposite this paragraph, one can legitimately think that its discovery is related to those areas where dignitaries, relatives and members of the ruling family had the honour to rest, not far from Pharaoh.

This head is on display at the Egyptian Museum of Tahrir Square in Cairo under number JE 39380.

Marie Grillot

sources

The Egyptian Art at the time of the pyramids, National Museums 1999

Treasures of Egypt – The wonders of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, under the direction of Francesco Tiradritti

The treasures of ancient Egypt in the Cairo Museum, National Geographic

Official Catalog – Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Mohamed Saleh, Sourouzian, Verlag Philipp von Zabern 1987

The restored Egypt, T3, Sydney Aufrère Jean-Claude Golvin

” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin
 “, Vol. 1, No. 12, Nov. 1906,

” The Egyptian Expedition ” AM Lythgoe, “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin”, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Apr. 1907),

” The Egyptian Expedition ” Albert M. Lythgoe, “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin”, Vol. 2, No. 7 (Jul. 1907)

” The Egyptian Expedition ” Albert M. Lythgoe, “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin”, Vol. 2, No. 10 (Oct.1907) 

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