Statue of Pendua and Nefertari

This statuary group is representing the scribe Pendua and his wife Nefertari. The couple embrace in an unusual depiction, seated on a wide high-backed seat with their arms passing behind the other so that their hands rest on each other’s shoulder.

Both Pendua and Nefertari (whose name was the same as the reigning queen) wear stylish wigs and garments typical of the period. An inscription on the back slab addresses a number of deities including Amun-Re, Mut, Khonsu, Atum and Osiris. The text mentions the names of all the sons and daughters.

Statue of Pendua and his wife Nefertari
Statue of Pendua and his wife Nefertari

A well-known photograph from the Turin Egyptian museum’s historical archive portrays the moment of the discovery of this statue in Deir el-Medina. Since the sculpture must have originally stood in a funerary chapel, it was evidently found out of context.

The texts on the back contain invocations to the Theban triad, Ra-Horakhty, and the main gods of the netherworld. Further down are images of the children of the couple paying homage to their parents.

The two spouses embrace each other, an act that the Egyptians called “inek” that is “to surround”, or even “sehen” that is “to embrace, to seek”. The statue was the object of family offerings, so that the ka, the life force of the deceased, could survive in the afterlife.

The theme of the family in echoed by the slender figure of a daughter incised between Pendua and Nefertari. Carved in Theban while limestone, the statue is a testimony of the Deir el-Medina sculptors’ attention to fin detail.

The carefully children features of the faces, as well as some slight asymmetries, are suggestive of an artist who was more used to carving reliefs than sculpture in the round.

New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, ca. 1292-1186 BC. Limestone, from Deir el-Medina. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Turin. S. 6127