Statue of Horemheb and Horus

In this nearly life-size statue made of white limestone, Horemheb is seated on the right side of Horus, who places his right arm around the king’s waist. The god’s left hand is holding the sign of life. The two figures greatly resemble each other.

Both have bare upper bodies and wear the shendyt kilt and the Pschent or double crown in ancient Egypt. The king is also wearing the striped royal nemes headdress and a false divine beard. On first inspection, the sculpture appears to be in a perfect state of preservation, but this is deceptive.

Statue of King Horemheb and God Horus
Statue of King Horemheb and God Horus

The king wears the nemes headcloth with uraeus serpent and the Pschent Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. Horus is depicted with a man’s body but the head of a falcon. As early as the Early Dynastic Period, Horus was worshipped as a sun god and god of the heavens. Like the king, he wears the shendyt pleated kilt and the Double Crown.

Statuary groups that associate the king with the gods aim to display the divine nature of the sovereign, as in the case of this statue where the god Horus and king Horemheb are depicted together. The veneration of these statues ensures the king’s survival through institutional provision, divine protection, and at the same time, deifies him.

Horemheb ascends the throne at a complex transitional moment in Egyptian history when, with the “heresy” of Akhenaten over, there is a return to the cult of Amun under Tutankhamun. Because the latter dies young and without heirs, after Ay’s reign it is Horemheb, supreme leader of the army, who takes the crown.

The statue has been extensively restored in modern times and several parts were added: the two outer arms and the feet of both statues, the left hand, beard, and the tip of the nose of the king, as well as the beak of the falcon.

The appeal of this work lies particularly in the contrast between the traditional rigidity of the overall modelling on the one hand and the face on the other, the style of which has been largely determined by late Amarna art.

The realism with which the anatomical details have been represented and the retaining of the portraiture despite the idealizing nature of the piece are a continuation of the art of king Akhenaten. All in all, this sculpture seems to bring us closer to the personality of the forceful statesman Horemheb more than any other of his portraits.

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, reign of Horemheb, ca. 1319-1292 BC. Now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Inv. 8301