Ramses II



While visiting the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, I found numerous works of art that interested me. I was able to appreciate these works more than before because of the knowledge I now possess after having taken this class thus far. Understanding the background, time periods, and history of the works that I was practically analyzing at the museum, made the pieces even more interesting and valuable to behold. The piece of work that captured my eyes the most was the statue of Ramesses II (?).
This statue was found at the Heracleopolis, Temple of Harsaphes, in Egypt. This sculpture was made somewhere between 1897 and 1834, during Egypt’s Middle Kingdom. The artist was probably an ancient Egyptian who was patroned by the Pharaoh Ramesses II himself. According to the museum’s description of the work, Ramesses II seized this sculpture from a former ruler and the head was replaced to fit Ramesses’ satisfaction. This is a historical piece to preserve his power and immortality.
This statue is an example of freestanding sculpture or sculpture in the round. It has been carved and chiseled out of Quartzite stone. This particular stone is composed mainly or entirely of quartz. “The stone is compact and is a form of metamorphosed sandstone in which silica, or quartz, has been deposited between the grains of quartz of which the sandstone is essentially composed”. Quartzite has a smooth fracture and is found primarily among ancient rocks.
The subject and iconography of the work is to emphasize the success, reign and power of Ramesses II. According to the museum’s description, the sculpture also functioned as a place for the non-priests of the community to place votive offerings for the gods of the temple. The non-priests were not allowed in the temples hence the sculpture must have been near the entrance of the temple. There is a slab in front of the pharaoh’s feet where offerings would have been placed.
The statue is rather large and stands approximately 10 feet high and 5 feet wide. The mass of the sculpture is almost overpowering to the observer. Egyptian art is known to be very compact, and this characteristic is evident in the statue of Ramesses II. The sculpture stays within the frame of the stone, nothing in this piece protrudes outside of its frame. The pose of the Pharaoh is consistent with Ancient Egyptian art as well. The Pharaoh is seated with his hands placed on his upper legs. His arms are close to his body at both sides, and his legs are close together and connected to the throne he sits upon. He sits upright in a tranquil manner reflecting power and kingship as well.  His body is bilaterally symmetrical while his pose is frontal and his movement is suppressed.
Ramesses II wears a headdress and a fake detachable beard (which is missing) to denote
his rank. This visual evidence, (hairstyles, clothes, objects), is common in Ancient Egyptian art to symbolize the status of the figure. When the pharaoh is portrayed, he usually has an elaborate headdress, is larger in scale than other figures around him, wears an elaborate patterned kilt, and is in perfectly fit form. The Ancient Egyptians idealized the body of the pharaoh and were not realistic when it came to portraying the actual facial characteristics of the pharaoh. Although the statue is not being compared to other figures in the work, one can tell by its stance, dress, and mass that the figure is important. Another characteristic of this sculpture is the bull’s tail on the back of his kilt, which is visible hanging between his legs. The bull, in Ancient Egypt, was accepted as a sign of power and was associated with the status of the pharaoh. The bull can be seen in many other Ancient Egyptian works of art involving the pharaoh.
The sculpture’s space and form takes up a three dimensional quality and is meant to be viewed from all sides. It is composed into a block of stone. This three-dimensional sculpture occupies both mass and volume. The carving technique used in the sculpture is known as subtractive, taking away from the original form of the stone. The slab of stone the Pharaoh sits upon is utilized as a throne. The