Armchair of Queen Hetepheres I

The seat and the backrest of the armchair Armchair of Queen Hetepheres I are made of natural wood. They are surrounded by a simple wooden frame covered with gold leaf with high arms in gilded wood.

The backrest of the chair is reinforced at the rear by a central support. The space between the arms, the seat, and the backrest is decorated with an elegant floral design, the dominant decorative element of the armchair. The floral design is composed of three papyrus flowers whose stems are tied with a band.

Armchair of Queen Hetepheres I
Armchair of Queen Hetepheres I

The front legs of the chair are shaped like lions’ paws, based on the ancient concept of protection given by lions. The front pair is taller than the rear pair, so that the seat inclines slightly toward the rear.

Those who could afford it equipped their tombs with all the necessities and comforts of life on earth, so that they could continue to enjoy them in the afterlife. For Queen Hetepheres, wife of King Sneferu and mother of King Khufu, these necessities included her entire bedroom suite: her portable canopy, bed with headrest, armchair, and curtain box, all designed of wood overlaid with gold.

A combination of plant and animal motifs is found on this low chair, the armrests of which are decorated with bound papyrus plants. Cushions would have padded the hard seat.

All of the furniture is noteworthy for its austerity of line and selective use of detail. The seeming simplicity masks sophisticated joinery. The beauty and technical achievement of these objects are matched only by the amazing story of their accidental discovery in 1925 and subsequent excavation and restoration.

Hetepheres I was a queen of Egypt during the 4th Dynasty of Egypt (ca. 2600 BC) who was a wife of one king, the mother of the next king, the grandmother of two more kings, and the figure who tied together two dynasties.

Hetepheres I may have been a wife of King Sneferu, and was the mother of King Khufu. It is possible that Hetepheres had been a minor wife of Sneferu and only rose in prominence after her son ascended the throne. She was the grandmother of two kings, Djedefre and Khafre, and of queen Hetepheres II.

Old Kingdom, 4th Dynasty, ca. 2613-2494 BC. From the Mastaba of Hetepheres I, G 7000X near the Great Pyramid of Giza. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 53263