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Rahotep And Nefret Essay, Research Paper

The Statues of Rahotep and Nefert

The first thing that strikes an observer of these two statues is the excellent condition they are in. The paint on the two figures, Rahotep and Nefert, is extremely well preserved and there is only a miniscule amount of perceptible damage. Rahotep, who is seated on the left, retains the air of nobility and grandeur that a king s son and high priest would have undoubtedly enjoyed during his lifetime. His wife, Nefert, sits adorned with an intricate wig and headband that match her bright jewelry and indicate her elevated social status. Together, the figures complement each other perfectly and provide a valuable glimpse into the world of non-royal funerary art of Ancient Egypt.

The statues of Rahotep and Nefert are made of limestone, one of the most accessible and popular materials used for sculpture in the Nile Valley, and are 120 cm high. After these statues were carved out of two single blocks of rock, they were covered with a thin layer of plaster and painted. Copper chisels and stone tools were most probably used to carve them. Like most other seated statues, the stone between their arms and their body has not been cut away. This is intentional; it is supposed to convey a sense of power and prevent breakage. The two figures also exhibit frontality, an attribute shared by the vast majority of three-dimensional Egyptian art. They are both facing perfectly straight ahead and are not looking at each other or to the side.

Both Rahotep and Nefert are roughly the same size and are seated in almost identical high-backed chairs with footrests. Rahotep wears a very plain kilt and a small amulet around his neck. He has close-cropped hair and his face is adorned with a thin mustache. He has broad shoulders and muscular arms and it is worth noting that his right arm is held across his chest while his left rests on his thigh. In this respect he resembles Djoser, but the horizontally held arm goes out of fashion later in the Fourth Dynasty. The biggest contrast between Rahotep and his wife is the color of his skin, which is almost the color of clay. In the majority of limestone statues, the husband is portrayed as having much darker skin than his wife has. This is probably due to the fact that men spent more time outside and wore less than women. A similar style is apparent in ancient wall paintings from Thera, Greece that are housed in the Athens Archaeological Museum. In them, the men are portrayed as either red or brown while the women are snow white.

Nefert wears a shoulder-length wig and ornate headband decorated with symmetrical designs. The sculptor paid great attention to details, as her real hair and the straps from her dress can be told apart from the wig and her robe. Nefert s nipples also protrude from her bosom and only one of her hands is visible. The other hand, much like most of Nefert s body, seems to mold with the dress which itself molds with the chair. Contrasting with the very bright white of the dress and chair and Nefert s pale skin are the strands of her necklace (or the collar of her dress), which are painted in alternating blue, turquoise, and red and end in a silver strand. The colors used in this necklace match the colors of her headdress. Nefert also has the same general facial expression as her husband, but her cheeks and chin are a bit more round and full.

Rahotep was a prince and the high priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis. This deity gained immense popularity in the Fifth Dynasty, in which six kings each built a temple dedicated to the god, and Heliopolis became the center of his cult worship. Although Rahotep was the son of a king and he held an extremely important religious office, he never attained the kingship. This is evident by the lack of a crown, nemes, or cobra uraeus on his head. Rahotep and Nefert are definitely members of the elite, though, as expressed by the rows of hieroglyphics on both sides of their heads. They serve to identify the individuals; Rahotep is surrounded by his important titles and names while Nefert is simply referred to as the king s dependent . The columns of hieroglyphics are symmetrical and add balance to each statue.

These two statues would have been placed in the mastaba, or rectangular tomb chapel, of the owners where they would house the ka (manifestation) of the deceased that would receive offerings from the living. Often, a serdab, or an enclosed niche, located behind a false door would house the statues and separate them from the people making the offerings. The main function of the statues was not to portray the couple in an artistic sense, but shelter their ka after their deaths.

The two statues date back to the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, which lasted from 2575 to 2465 BC. They were discovered in the early 1870 s by French Egyptologist August Mariette when he was excavating the tomb chapel of Rahotep located at Meidum. This edifice was built during the reign of Sneferu, the first ruler of the Fourth Dynasty, and was one of the earliest chapels to be decorated with scenes of everyday life in raised relief. The chapel was adorned with a false door, in front of which offerings for the deceased would be placed, and was later walled off to prevent people from entering. The statues of Rahotep and Nefert were thus left undisturbed for thousands of years, perfectly preserving their condition.


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