Cult Statue of Amenhotep I

A fine painted limestone statue depicting King Amenhotep I. After his death, Amenhotep I was deified and became a source of law and order for centuries. This piece is likely a cult sculpture dating to the 19th Dynasty. King Amenhotep I was celebrated as the founder of the village of Deir el-Medina and divinized by the inhabitants of the settlement. This is why he is depicted as a divine figure in this statue.

The statue is carved in limestone so pure and clear that it seems painted. It is an extremely pure and homogeneous limestone that lends itself particularly to the art of sculpture and being painted, as can be seen from the headdress and hieroglyphs.

Cult Statue of Amenhotep I. Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 1372
Cult Statue of King Amenhotep I

There were two ways people could seek justice in ancient Egypt. The first was through the use of divine oracles, including a statue of the deceased and deified Amenhotep I, and a statue of the god Amun-Re.

Related: Mummy of Amenhotep I

Priests would carry an oracular statue out of the temple, and litigants would present their cases to the statue. The divine answers were interpreted by the statue’s swaying movements.

The second way of seeking justice was through secular courts. Two major courts were located in Thebes and Memphis, and functioned like a high court. Lesser courts sat in smaller towns; they would handle local cases. If a serious crime originated in a lower court, it would be moved up to a major court.

Cult Statue of King Amenhotep I, detail
Cult Statue of King Amenhotep I

After a century or so after their deaths, both Amenhotep I and his mother Ahmose Nefertari became deified and were the subjects of a cult of recognition and worship within the Deir el-Medina and Theban region for approximately 400 years.

Their image therefore appears in numerous stelae and tombs, despite not being the rulers of the period in which such likenesses were made.

The cult of Amenhotep I flourished especially during the 19th and 20th dynasties. This statue’s style is typical of Theban sculpture of the Ramesside era: large eyes, full cheeks and, aquiline nose.

The king’s white skin tone, instead of the more common red hue, is probably meant to imitate precious Egyptian alabaster.

This is a feature of other statues made in Deir el-Medina during the Ramesside period, such as that of Penmernabu in the Turin museum, or that of the royal scribe Ramose, kept at the Louvre, which according to recent studies might be from the same workshop.

Cult Statue of King Amenhotep I, front
Cult Statue of King Amenhotep I

New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, ca. 1292-1189 BC. Painted limestone. Dimensions: 65 x 27 x 40 cm. From Deir el-Medina, Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum of Turin. Cat. 1372

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