Royal Head

Late Dynasty 18–Early Dynasty 19, ca. 1320–1292 BC
Red Granite
Egyptian Purchase Fund

While most depictions of pharaohs were portraits, although usually quite idealizing, there are periods where the distinction between successive rulers can be blurred. This image dates to the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty or the beginning of the Ramesside era and has been variously attributed to Horemheb or Seti I, but most recently has been suggested to be a rare depiction of Ramesses I, founder of the Nineteenth Dynasty. The almond-shaped eyes and small, smiling mouth are holdovers from the Amarna style, which lasted for many years after the end of Akhenaten’s religious and artistic experiments.

This head shows the pharaoh wearing the royal nemes headcloth. The extended break at the back of the head suggests that this figure was part of a larger composition and perhaps once stood in front of a larger image, such as a sphinx or a figure of the god Amun. The original sculpture, carved in speckled Aswan granite, would have been a singular masterpiece.