Head of Queen Tiye

Head of Queen Tiye. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 38257
Head of Queen Tiye. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 38257

This small head, full of wonderful details, portrays Queen Tiye, one of the most powerful women in ancient Egypt.

The queen’s facial features follow the stylistic canons of the reign of Amenhotep III in the almond-shaped eyes, the arching eyebrows, and the thin nose. Her down-turned mouth with fleshy lips is a typical detail of the portrait of the queen, making her image unique and unmistakable.

The queen wears a wig of tight curls leaving her ears uncovered. There is a two-winged uraeus (rearing cobras) protecting her name flanking the diadem of the head. The head was found in the temple of Hathor, protective goddess of the turquoise mountain at Serabit el-Khadim in Sinai. Queen Tiye was the wife of Amenhotep III and mother of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten).

Head of Queen Tiye. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 38257
Head of Queen Tiye. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 38257

“The haughty dignity of the face is blended with a fascinating directness and personal appeal. The delicacy of the surfaces round the eye and over the cheek shows the greatest care in handling. The curiously drawn-down lips, with their fullness and yet delicacy, their disdain without malice, are evidently modelled in all truth from life.

Turning to the new portrait, we gather some details about the queen. The ear is represented as being pierced, as is also the case with her son Akhenaten. The crown which she wore was probably of openwork, in gold. The two winged uraei wave their length in loops around the head, as they meet in the back while in front they are supporters of the cartouche with the name….this piece alone was worth all the rest of our gains of the year. It is now in the Cairo Museum”.

– W.M.Finders Petrie, Researches in the Sinai, New York, 1906.

Read more: Mummy of Queen Tiye

Tiye was a powerful figure, but her royal life was complicated, as demonstrated through this changing statue. Her husband King Amenhotep III devoted a number of shrines to a constructed temple dedicated to her in Sedeinga in Nubia where she was worshiped as a form of the goddess Hathor-Tefnut. He also had an artificial lake built for her in his Year 12. On the colossal statue now in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, she is of equal height with her husband.

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III, ca. 1391-1353 BC. Made of steatite, height: 7.5 cm. From Serabit el-Khadim, Sinai. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 38257