Head of Senusret III

In this sculpture from a statue, the head of king Senusret III was no more considered to be a divinity, but a human being. This is reflected in the king’s face, which has wrinkles, a pouting mouth and a protruding chin. All these show old age, a serious nature and weariness.

On his head he wears the pleated linen royal nemes headdress with the uraeus, or rearing cobra, protecting his brow. His ears are relatively large and his small eyes are hidden beneath the heavy eyebrows. The uraeus or the rearing cobra and the nose are almost completely broken.

Head of King Senusret III
Head of King Senusret III. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 31619

The face of Senusret III is one of the most individual and recognizable in all of Egyptian art. This head, a masterpiece of Egyptian craftsmanship, was part of a full-length statue that probably portrayed King Senusret III in his mature years.

Senusret III, who ruled Egypt for about 39 years, was a great king of the 12th Dynasty and is considered to be, perhaps, the most powerful Egyptian ruler of the dynasty.

During his reign, artists did not follow the older idealistic forms in rendering the features of the royal sculptures, but showed a tendency towards more realistic, mostly exaggerated features. 

Senusret III’s reign was characterized by stability, economic growth, and cultural development. He implemented effective administrative reforms, improving the efficiency of the government and promoting trade and agriculture. His patronage of the arts and literature contributed to a flourishing cultural scene during his time.

Senusret III’s significance lies in his military achievements, architectural projects, and contributions to the stability and prosperity of ancient Egypt during the Middle Kingdom period. His reign marked a period of strength and expansion for the Egyptian empire.

Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, reign of Senusret III, ca. 1878-1839 BC. Gray granite. From Faiyum. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. JE 31619