The sculpture shows king Khafre enthroned, wearing the royal headdress, known as the nemes, and a false beard, both of which were symbols of kingship in ancient Egypt. It is is considered one of the iconic masterpieces of ancient Egyptian art.
Immensely famous ever since its discovery and is known for its exceptional craftsmanship and artistic detail. The funerary statue of Khafre Enthroned represents the apotheosis of the sculptural skill of the court artists applied to the sublimation of royal divinity. The King is portrayed on a cubic throne carved entirely with symbols of royalty.
Khafre’s face is characterized by a serene expression and idealized features. The sculptor aimed to capture the king’s eternal and divine qualities rather than a realistic likeness.
The statue represents Khafre’s role as a divine ruler and his connection to the gods. It was believed that the kings were intermediaries between the mortal world and the divine realm.
On the front, lion paws and protomas, and on the sides, the symbol of the Sema Tawy, the emblem of “Uniting of the Two Lands” (Upper and Lower Egypt). It is represented respectively by the papyrus plants and the lotus knotted around the hieroglyph of the trachea.
Ka Statue of Khafre
The purpose of the statue was to legitimize and celebrate the universal authority of the king, of whom the throne was one of the most powerful expressions, as the guarantor of the stability and unity of the country. It is considered to be a Ka statue of King Khafre.
The sculpture was found in 1860 by Auguste Mariette during excavations at Khafre’s mortuary temple complex in Giza, near the Great Sphinx. It is believed to have originally been placed within the temple as part of the king’s funerary cult.
The concept is further emphasized by the presence of the falcon-god Horus, who protects the head of the king between his wings as though to underline the perfect symbiosis of the man and the god.
Related: Ka Statue of King Hor Awibre
Khafre wished to give an unequivocal sign of the supreme function that the gods had assigned to him and to whose world he belonged by the creation of an unspecified number of identical reproductions of this statue to illustrate the synthesis of earthly and heavenly power.
The statue overcomes the formal limits of simple sculpture. It becomes a message in itself: it is a three dimensional hieroglyph cut from stone.
Artistic Significance of the statue of Khafre Enthroned
The skills of the sculptor succeeded in turning a work of complex ideological content into a masterpiece. As often happens, the choice of stone was a determining factor in the success of the execution. In this case, a high quality stone like the hard and compact diorite was an ideal material to create full but not heavy volumes.
With the three dimensional relief rendered softer by the careful polishing of the surfaces. The figure of the king seems therefore to reflect the light of his own divine essence. An effect that is cleverly emphasized by the dark green veined with white of the diorite.
“Khafre Enthroned” is renowned for its exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail. The sculptor skillfully carved the intricate folds of Khafre‘s clothing and meticulously rendered the facial features, showcasing the artistic mastery of ancient Egyptian sculptors.
The statue of Khafre Enthroned provides valuable insights into the religious beliefs, royal iconography, and artistic techniques of ancient Egypt.
Old Kingdom, 4th Dynasty, ca. 2570 BC. To be in the Grand Egyptian Museum, Giza. JE 10062