Artist Unknown (Egyptian, Late Period, 8th century B.C.),
Amenirdas I, the Divine Consort
, ca. 700 B.C., XXV Dynasty
granite, 25 ¼ in. high
Museum Purchase, 1953.80
Obtained by General Le Marois during his service with Napoleon's army at the time of the Egyptian campaign (1798–1801), this image of Amenirdas I reflects the high standard of commemorative portrait sculpture in the round maintained during the Late Period (700 B.C.–100 A.D.). It also demonstrates the independence, position of responsibility, and respect commanded by some women in ancient Egyptian society.
The daughter of King Kashta of Nubia, Amenirdas came to Egypt with the successful invasion of her brother, King Piankhi of Kush in 716–715 B.C. At the time of the Kushite conquest, Shepenupet I, daughter of the last native king, held the supreme religious office of the land at Thebes, which had long been the spiritual capital of Egypt. Shepenupet was compelled to adopt the Kushite princess, who henceforth as Amenirdas I became the Divine Consort, earthly bride of the state god, Amun. This act lent legitimacy to the claim of Piankhi as the first foreigner in a thousand years to become ruler of a large part of Egypt. Joslyn’s portrait of Amenirdas, her distinctive facial features framed by a heavy wig, reflects the calm majesty for which the best of pharaonic sculpture is renowned. She is crowned by a circlet of hooded cobra heads and, in the New Kingdom sculptural tradition, the eyebrows and cosmetic lines are long, drawn out in heavy relief. A simple, tight-fitting garment sheathes her body, the breasts are covered by a halter, and the left hand grasps the stem of a lily scepter, a symbol of femininity.