Relief of a Woman in Blue Dress

A painted limestone relief depicting a standing woman in a pleated sheer linen blue dress. The woman wears a luxurious wig which is held in place by a diadem of blossoms. A band ties the wig about mid-way through its length with a knot in the back.

This slightly pulls the wig back, exposing the natural hair which appears to be dyed with henna. Above her forehead is an inflated lotus flower. Atop the head is a scented wax cone. She has an ornate broad collar necklace wrapped around and supported by the neck and shoulders, and a wide bracelet on her wrist.

Relief of a Woman in Blue Dress
Relief of a Woman in Blue Dress. Photo: Grégory Maillot

The left arm obscures a knot in the dress, beneath the breast, that subtly highlights her graceful figure. The woman’s left hand clasps a menat necklace, which was meant to foster health, good luck and fortune, and to protect against evil spirits.

It was also used as a percussion instrument that was shaken by females participating in religious ceremonies.

The inscription identifies her only as “[The one who] is the object of his affection, the one who is praised by…”

The menat necklace, a symbol associated with the goddess Hathor, is a large necklace composed of a bundle of rows of beads that needed a heavy counterweight between the shoulder blades in order to be worn firmly on the chest.

Although sometimes the necklace is shown worn, more often it was worn by women participating in religious ceremonies.

It worked like a percussion instrument: it was shaken to create a noise that could attract or perhaps placate a god or goddess. In the New Kingdom the menat necklace and the sistrum were attributes of women who held the title “Chantress of Amun-Re”.

The counterweight also became an amulet, becoming a powerful protective object made even more effective by the divine image represented, in this case the goddess Sekhmet.

New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty to 19th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1186 BC. Now in the Fondation Gandur pour l’Art, Geneva. FGA-ARCH-EG-0611