Sunday, June 25, 2017

Famous Statuette of Pepi II and his Mother

     One of the Brooklyn Museum's most famous works of art is this delightful statuette of the Sixth Dynasty Pharaoh Pepi II and his mother Ankhnes-meryre II. It is made of alabaster and shows the Pharaoh's mother holding her son on her lap. Pepi came to the throne as a child, but is shown here as a small King, rather than as a child.

     This work of art has a few unusual features to it. For instance, even though Pepi is sitting on his mother's lap, his throne is shown to the side of the throne that Ankhnes-meryre II sits on. Also, there are separate inscriptions on the statuette, one for each person shown. The face of the Queen is not carved in great detail. The eyes are barely roughed out and one wonders if they were not painted on when the statue was first created. A hole in the Queen's forehead probably indicates that a uraeus was once appended to this object.

     Pepi is shown with almost impossibly long legs and with the body of an adult even though this statue clearly commemorates his mother's regency for her young son, who may have been about the age of five at his coronation.

     Pepi has the distinction of possibly being the longest reigning king in all of history. After coming to the throne as a child he may have lived to be about one hundred years of age (although some scholars dispute this and think that sixty was a more likely age for his death).

     A nobleman named Harkuf, who served under Merenre and Pepi II put a copy of a letter (which he received from the young king) on the wall of his tomb at Aswan. Harkuf had just led an expedition to Nubia and sent a message ahead to tell the child-king that he was returning with a dancing pygmy to entertain the Pharaoh. Pepi responded with a letter that  reads like a it was dictated by a child who was excited by the prospect of seeing the dancing pygmy. The letter tells Harkuf to guard his small charge carefully and to see that no harm came to him as the King desired to see this wonder more than anything. This letter is one of the few times in all of Egyptian history that we get a glimpse at the personal life of a ruler.

     The bad news to Pepe's reign was that he probably ruled too long and lost control of his kingdom. After his death, Egypt fell into a state of political chaos that we now call the First Intermediate Period.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pepi I

     Teti was the founder of the Sixth Dynasty and his son, Pepi I was either the second or third king of the dynasty. Some scholars think there was an usurper between Teti and Pepi I, others disagree.

     Teti and Pepi continued to build pyramids like their predecessors had. They also carried over a new idea first seen in the tomb of Unis (the last Pharaoh of the Fifth Dynasty) when they had elaborate funerary texts, now called the Pyramid Texts, carved in their burial places. Funerary temples lay before the pyramids and are covered in elaborate, and beautifully executed, carvings.

     Statuary from Pepi's reign is not common. One of the most famous pieces from this reign is a copper statue of the king which is now in the Cairo Museum. The statue shows Pepi, with his arms at his sides, confidently striding forward.

     Another well-known representation of Pepi, now in the Brooklyn Museum,  is the statuette shown here. It is carved from Graywacke and has a small hole in the forehead where an uraeus would have been inserted. The pupils of the eyes are obsidian and the whites of the eyes are made of alabaster. The eyes themselves are inserted into copper rims. The Pharaoh is shown kneeling and offering "nu" pots to (probably) a god or goddess.