Jean-François Champollion under the spell of Ramses II of Turin!


Ramses II, or the Great; ‘Ra is the one who bore him’ or ‘born of Ra’, (Rhaméssēs), c. 1303 BC – July or August 1213; reigned 1279–1213 BC, was the third pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt.  He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the New Kingdom, itself the most powerful period of Ancient Egypt. His successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor”. He is known as Ozymandias in Greek sources (Koinē Greek: Οσυμανδύας, romanized: Osymandýas), from the first part of Ramesses’s regnal nameUsermaatre Setepenre, “The Maat of Ra is powerful, Chosen of Ra”. More on Wikipedia

He was undoubtedly the greatest pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty – and one of the most important leaders of ancient Egypt. The ostentatious pharaoh is best remembered for his exploits at the Battle of Kadesh, his architectural legacy, and for bringing Egypt into its golden age. Here

Here again, is another fascinating article by Marie Grillot, and this time, about this giant statue of the great pharaoh, Ramses II, how it’s been found and restored. It is magical, a spell! 😊💖🙏

Jean-François Champollion sous le charme du Ramsès II de Turin !


Statue of Ramses II – Granodiorite – New Kingdom
Discovered at Karnak in 1818 by Jean-Jacques Rifaud on behalf of Bernardino Drovetti Museo Egizio in Turin – C 1380

This magnificent statue of Ramses II is undoubtedly one of the most emblematic pieces of the Egyptian Museum in Turin. With a height approaching 2 m, carved in a block of black diorite (or black granite, or granodiorite, or polished basanite according to the descriptions), of perfect execution, it represents the pharaoh seated on his throne, bearing the emblem power, face and attitude-filled with serenity. This work of art of absolute perfection can only arouse unconditional admiration.

Inscription engraved by J.-J. Rifaud on the right side of the statue of Ramses II – Granodiorite – New Kingdomwhich he discovered in Karnak in 1818 on behalf of Bernardino Drovetti – Museo Egizio de Turin – C 1380

As evidenced by the inscription engraved on the right side of the throne: “Dt par Jj – Rifaud in the service of Mr Drovetti in Thebes SR (?) 1818”, it was discovered by the Marseillais Jean-Jacques Rifaud in 1818, then that he was starting excavations at Karnak on behalf of Bernardino Drovetti – French consul and… Italian antique dealer – who had hired him two years earlier.

The head of Ramses II appears in n ° 3 in “Granite statues, discovered by Jean-Jacques Rifaud, in his excavations in Thebes, in the eastern part of the great temple of Karnak”. Lithograph by Könitzer after the original drawing by Mr. Rifaud

It seems difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the find. Volume II of “Porter & Moss”, which presents it as follows: “Ramesses II, seated, with statuettes of Queen Nefertari on left and of Prince Amenirkhopshef on right, granite, in Turin Mus. 1380” refers us to a chapter of the ‘work by Jean-Jacques Rifaud “Table of Egypt, Nubia and surrounding places, or Itinerary for the use of travellers who visit these regions”. It “would” be referenced in Karnak’s discoveries “From Rifaud excavations. Presumably from here” in enumeration 9: “Three shrines, square pillars, statues, caryatids, the number of black granite statues, a white marble monolith -, a pink granite sacrificial altar, forty-two columns in one direction, and eight in another part: these are the results of the excavations undertaken from the surrounding wall to the eastern gate of the palace… “

Cracks still visible today testify to the condition
in which the statue of Ramses II was found – photo Marie Grillot

Broken discovery: “it was transported to Turin in shapeless fragments”. And also, it seems, according to some sources, that he had to suffer from a fire when he arrived in Italy.

At the start of summer 1824, Jean-François Champollion was at the Turin museum where he came to discover and write the “descriptive and reasoned” catalogue of Egyptian treasures that His Majesty, the King of Sardinia, had just acquired: he proceeds; this is the first “Drovetti” collection.

On this pencil and watercolor drawing by Marco Nicolosino made around 1832,
we can recognize, at the back of the room, the statue of Ramses II

With thanks to his insistence and to the intervention of the knight “Jules Cordero di San Quintino”, the first curator of the Museum, that the statue was able to be reconstituted. Champollion relates the facts thus: “I finally got the pieces of the statue assembled… Nothing is missing.” Throughout his stay, he never ceased to consider: “the beauty and the admirable perfection of this colossal figure” and admits: “For six whole months every day I see him and always believe to see him for the first time … In short, I’m in love with it. “

Why not, therefore, let the man in love and passionate describe it?

Statue of Ramses II – Granodiorite – New Kingdom
Discovered at Karnak in 1818
by Jean-Jacques Rifaud on behalf of Bernardino Drovetti – Museo Egizio de Turin – C 1380

“The king is represented seated on a throne in military dress. The head of the statue of Ramses the Great wears the royal helmet, armour which, according to the green colour that is applied to him in the painted bas-reliefs, was to be in bronze adorned with more precious metals: kinds of nails or small relief discs, similar to the figurative character which, in hieroglyphic texts, expresses the idea of the sun, covering the entire surface of the helmet, except a sort of rim or rather of a visor which protrudes over the entire contour of the forehead; above this visor rises the royal badge, the urœus, the body of which first forms several coils, and then extends in a straight line to the highest part of the helmet.

The face of this statue, as had been worked like all the other parts with extreme care, is of perfection that I did not expect to find in any works of Egyptian ancient style. The expression is both sweet and proud, and with a very brief examination, it is enough to convince that this is a true portrait. The eyes, of medium size, are less prominent than those of most other statues; the eyebrows are strongly marked; the external angle of the eyes is not exaggerated as usual; the nose is long and aquiline, and the mouth small, although the lips are always a little strong. Full cheeks and a rounded chin give the oval face a noticeable elegance and grace. The ears, of excellent shape, but the upper extremity of which always protrudes beyond the line of the eye, an essential characteristic of any figure in true Egyptian style, are pierced as if to hang some precious ornament thereon. Ramses the Great is beardless … A rich necklace, with six divisions ending in a row of dangling pearls, covers the Pharaoh’s chest:

The artist represented him dressed in a loose and long tunic with wide sleeves, striped and pleated, and all the openings, as well as the bottom, are embroidered and adorned with fringes, and this is undoubtedly this famous Egyptian tunic known as ‘calasiris’. The right sleeve, raised above the elbow, gives passage to the arm which, folded against the chest, supports this sceptre in the form of a hook, as often placed in the hand of kings as in that of certain deities; the left arm, extended along the side and resting on the thigh, is covered almost entirely by the sleeve of the tunic, the fringes of which descend to the wrist; the closed hand holds a cylindrical body, quite like a roll of papyrus depressed by the effort of the fingers which grip it. The shoes imitating as sandals, down to the smallest details, in palm leaves, and finely woven, which we still find in the hypogeums, are attached to the feet of the statue that are moreover of a very beautiful shape. And in a fair proportion. The execution of the hands leaves nothing to be desired in these same respects. I will also point out that the artist, as if to express that the Pharaoh’s feet rest on a mat, has traced below and in a single line, on the surface of the footstool of the throne, long leaves of plants similar to those of certain reeds.

Statue of Ramses II: on the right is a representation of Amonherkhepshef, one of his sons, and, on the left, a representation of his wife Nefertari “the beloved of the Theban goddess Mut”

Finally, to the right and left of the legs of the statue, are two full-relief figures leaning against the front of the throne and carved in its mass: one represents a queen adorned with the insignia of Athyr, and the other a young man costumed as the god Horus and wearing the emblem of Victory; two columns of hieroglyphics, engraved near this last statuette, teach us that the colossus was dedicated by the son of the king whom he loves… The legend which accompanies the statuette of woman consists only of these words: His royal and powerful wife who loves him; it undoubtedly relates to the queen, wife of Ramses and mother of Amonh…. (This proper name ends with two characters whose sound is still unknown to me, he specifies in a note): these two figures, one foot high, and wearing small sandals like the colossus, are of a very fine and very careful work.

The cartridges of Ramses II appear in particular

on his right and left forearms and on his belt – photo Marie Grillot

The proper name Ramses, engraved on the belt of the great statue, the particular first name of Ramses VI or the Great, and his proper name, carved, one on the right forearm, the other on the front- left arm, would prove sufficiently that this beautiful statue represents the least ancient, but the most famous of the Egyptian conquerors, all the same, a long inscription, starting from the clip of the belt and going down to the bottom of the tunic, would not tell us that this is indeed the image of the living and beneficent God, the Representative of Ammon, of Mars and the Sun in the high region, the king Re-Saté approved by Phré, the Director and the Guardian of Egypt: The Child of the Gods, The Son of the Sun, The Darling of Ammon: Ramses, The Eternal Awakener. “

Could Ramses II hope for a more wonderful description of his statue, studied, looked at, and interpreted with the greatest and most respectful attention?

As for Jean-François Champollion, it is certainly in order not to leave him totally and definitively that he will return to Paris with a: “good plaster of the entire bust of this statue” …

Marie Grillot


Jean-François Champollion, Letters to M. le Duc de Blacas d’Aulps relating to the Royal Egyptian Museum in Turin , first

letter – historical monuments, Turin, July, 1824, Firmin Didot, 1824 (pp. 1-92).
Table of Egypt, Nubia and surrounding places, or Itinerary for the use of travelers who visit these regions , Jean-Jacques Rifaud, Treuttel et Würtz (Paris), 1830

Topographical bibliography of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, reliefs, and paintings – II – Theban Temples ” by the late Bertha Porter and Rosalind LB Moss, Hon. D. Litt. (Oxon.), FSA. assisted by Ethel W. Burney, second edition revised and augmented, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1972

Art treasures of Museo Egizio, Eleni Vassilika, Allemandi & Co

Guide Museo Egizio, Franco Cosimo Panini editions

The Egyptian Museum Turin, Federico Garolla Editore

14 thoughts on “Jean-François Champollion under the spell of Ramses II of Turin!

  1. Reblogged this on lampmagician and commented:

    As I noticed right now, there is something strange that happened to my WordPress site. I posted this some minutes ago but couldn’t see it, and I found it dated 2 June! 😮 As I still know, today is June 10th. The only way to get back to the future, I thought I must reblog it before I’d drown in the past… 😜🤦‍♂️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What impressive statues and stories arise from Ramses II, probably the greatest pharaoh of them all. No wonder his successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor”. And I’ve just read that he lived until he was 90, unheard of in those days!

    Whenever I read about this Egyptian pharaoh, the late actor Yul Brynner comes to mind … especially when he played his character in the very old “Ten Commandments” movie, starring Charlton Heston in the role of Moses. Oh, I am taking a trip down memory lane today!

    Anyway, I hope you’re having a lovely weekend and enjoying your new, shiny, whizzbang computer! Love and light, Deborah.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As you say, he had a long life, stunning!
    Haha, I have watched this movie several times. And yes, Yul Brynner fitted in his outfit. Those days in the golden age of Hollywood, there were many such an extended Masterwork like Ben Hur or El Cid with Charlton Heston, and I loved the sound trek by Miklós Rózsa. Thank you, my lovely Deborah, you took me back in a nice past: Golden Age. 💖💖

    Liked by 1 person

  4. elainemansfield

    Yul Brynner! The King! It also reminds me of some faces of the Buddha–strong and calm. There is no doubt Ramses II was in charge and focused on creation of powerful spiritual monuments. My teacher’s teacher–so also my teacher because I studied his books and spent 6 weeks with him in Switzerland before his death–Paul Brunton wrote a chapter on Luxor in A Search in Secret Egypt. It’s available as a pdf and PB (as he liked to be called) always brought in the mystical and occult along with the factual. He’s a great resource for Egyptian mysticism.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. elainemansfield

    PB is what we called Paul Brunton. He wrote many books and there is a Paul Brunton Philosophical Foundation. I found out by doing a little searching that ‘Search in Secret Egypt’ is available for free as a pdf. His language is old fashioned in some ways, but he was a deep mystic and philosopher.

    Liked by 1 person

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