Relief with profile of a Queen

  • Egypt, New Kingdom
  • mid-2nd millennium B.C.
  • Limestone
Catalogue Entry

This work, part of a queen’s image carved into the wall of a building, is rendered as a sunk relief, a technique that enables sharp shading effects even under strong sunlight. The queen’s headdress is in the shape of a vulture with outspread wings and holding in its talons the hieroglyph shen, which signifies the eternal universal law. The image of a cobra has been incorporated into the vulture’s head. The vulture represents the goddess of Upper Egypt and the cobra the goddess of Lower Egypt, and the queen is thus depicted as under the protection of both deities. The vulture is also the symbol of a protective mother goddess, and the addition of a sun disk and cow horns to the head of the cobra underlines its association with Hathor, a cow deity and daughter of the sun god Ra. While accoutered with these revered hallmarks of the fundamental principles of the cosmos, the queen’s profile wears the gentle smile of a life- and nurture-giving mother-goddess.