Falcon Pectoral of Tutankhamun
Pectoral jewel of Tutankhamun depicting Horus in the form of a falcon with outspread wings around the sun disk, holding shen rings, the symbols of eternal protection in his claws. The pectoral is a symbol of protection and divine power, and it showcases the exquisite craftsmanship and wealth of the New Kingdom period in ancient Egypt.
The solar hawk with disc on the head, open wings, Ankh and Shen emblems in talons; inlaid after cloisonné fashion. One of the Ankh’s broken (probably during use). Still inspiring jewel-makers until today, Tutankhamun’s falcon-shaped breastplate is made of gold and semi-precious stones.
Pectoral jewelry held significant importance in the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt. Pectorals were ornamental chest pieces worn by kings and high-ranking individuals as a symbol of their power and status. These pieces were typically made of precious materials such as gold, silver, and gemstones.
Pectorals often featured intricate designs and religious symbolism. They were adorned with images of deities, protective symbols, and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Pectorals served both a decorative and religious purpose, as they were believed to provide protection and divine favor to the wearer.
The falcon’s wings are outstretched, carrying a solar disc on its head, and two shen-rings in each talon, topped with an ankh. Most likely, this piece represents Horus, the falcon-headed deity of power and kingship.
In bright and shimmering polychromy, the falcon, represented in full flight, spreads its wings. Curved upwards, they thus offer, in an elegant symmetry, perfect protection for the deceased.
Related: Corselet of Tutankhamun
The cloisonné technique – which here achieves a degree of excellence – enabled the 18th Dynasty goldsmith who made this incredible pectoral to combine an enchantment of semi-precious stones, perfectly rendering the texture and composition of the plumage.
Gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise, carnelian, or even light blue glass realistically reproduce the location of the primary and secondary flight feathers and the contour feathers and those of the tail.
“It has partitions which are so tightly fitted with blue and red glass that it has been suggested that they represent the first example of true enamelling from Egypt”, analyzes Carol Andrews in “Ancient Egyptian Jewelry”.
During the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt, goldsmiths played a significant role in the production of intricate and exquisite gold jewelry and other precious metal objects. They were highly skilled artisans who worked with gold, silver, and other precious materials to create a wide range of items, including elaborate jewelry, funerary masks, statues, and ceremonial objects.
The goldsmiths of the New Kingdom were highly esteemed for their craftsmanship and their ability to create intricate designs and detailed metalwork. Their work was highly valued and often commissioned by kings, nobility, and elite members of society.
New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun, ca. 1332-1323 BC. From the Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62), Valley of the Kings, West Thebes. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 61893, Carter 267 and GEM 39169