Statue Of King Chephren The extraordinary statue of King Chephren is a masterpiece of sculpture in the round. This work is 168cm tall, 96cm long and 57cm wide, which was the approximate size of the king. The artist who created this sculpture is unknown, as it was found when Mariette’s workmen were exploring the favissa of Chephren’s valley temple in 1860. The statue was built during the reign of King Chephren, which historians estimate lasted from 2540-2505 BC. The statue is a cut block of Diorite, a granular crystalline igneous rock.
This work can be found in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (Ground Floor, room 42), or if you are unable to visit Cairo, images of the work can be found in the Official Catalogue of The Egyptian Museum of Cairo (pages 64,65) Chephren was the son of Cheops. The enthroned king rests one hand flat on his knee while he holds a folded piece of material in the other. He wears a nemes headdress with pleaded lappets. Attached to his chin is the sign of his dignity, the ceremonial beard. He is also dressed in a shendjyt, a type of short pleated kilt.
Two lions support the king’s seat, one on each side. The two lions are to provide the king with both power and protection. On each side of the throne the motif of the unity of the two lands, or sema-tawy, is etched in high relief. The sema-tawy, is composed of the heraldic plants of the Two Lands. Lilies, for the south, and papyrus, for the north, are knotted around the hieroglyphic sign for ‘union’.
The statue of King Chephren contains implied detail, meaning that very few lines in the right positions can make up for a completely textured work. This feature causes your eye to start at the king’s face and move around the statue, without being confused by excessive detail. The throne is elevated about a foot above ground level, so the king would appear more powerful to worshippers bowing before the statue. The work is covered with symbolism, including the protection of the lions, the sema-tawy, and the falcon, Horus, God of the sky, perched on Chephren’s back protecting the king’s head with his wings. Excluding the fact that one hand is clenched in a fist and the other is resting on his knee, the work is symmetrical. This work was constructed between the years 2540-2505 BC during the reign of King Chephren to praise him as a great ruler of Egypt.
No one knows exactly when the work was sculpted or who may have participated in the creation of the statue. The Great Sphinx and the second pyramid in Giza were also created during Chephren’s rule, making it a very prudential part of Egypt’s artistic history. I was flipping through a book of ancient Egyptian art trying to find a piece to analyze when my finger slipped upon the statue of King Chephren. Most of the Egyptian statues were constructed of limestone, but the statue of Chephren was made of a black stone, which immediately caught my attention. I learned that it was Diorite and is much harder than limestone, and more difficult to work with.
The work is very exquisite. It is obvious that the artist(s) that worked on it was very talented and must have created other great works to be entrusted with creating the King’s image in a statue. I respect the time, effort, and talent that must have gone into such a work, but I’m not spiritually moved by the piece. The statue does not relate to me and thus I can not comprehend it and all of the meaning and symbolism it may have once had to ancient people.