"Each part of the world recapitulates, shares in and experiences the history of the world as a whole"
Fernand Braudel

Statue of Iriketakana

25th Dynasty (747-656BC)
Temple of Karnak

The figure stands on a rectangular base extended to the rear by a back pillar, in the attitude of walking: left foot forward and arms along the body. The bold and paunchy character is represented in a very realistic way. He wears a tunic which hugs his belly and sagging breasts and which stops at the calf: at the edges are fringes. This type of clothing is often found in sculptures from the Ptolemaic period. The head, round and massive, is of African physiognomy. The inscriptions on the back pillar and the base have retained the name and title of this great figure from the Kushite King’s court. The titles “Prince, Count, Friend” are typically Egyptian but are only rang titles which does not indicate the actual duties of the dignitary. His name, which should perhaps be read “Irigadiganen”, seems to be purely Kushite and the character seems to have lived in the mid-7th century BC.

In about 730 BC, the King of Kush, Piankhy, conquered Egypt; and his successors ruled the country for about a century until 660 BC. They formed the 25th Dynasty, known as “Kushite” or “Ethiopian”, whose most famous member is undoubtedly Taharqa. This conquest allowed the Kushites to come into direct contact with the Egyptian world, but in fact well before these links there were the relations between Egypt and Nubia, firstly because of the expansionist ambitions of the pharaohs from the Middle Kingdom, but also by commerce and trade. In the Middle Kingdom, Egyptian colonists settled in Lower Nubia and then in Upper Nubia during the New Kingdom. In Nubia, this Egyptian “adventure” of the 25th Dynasty can be seen in the Egyptianization of the kingdom of Kush: the temple of Amun at Jebel Barkal or the royal pyramids of Nuri are testaments of this which can be seen today.

The art of the 25th Dynasty resumed and used the canons of Egyptian art in parallel even if it involved new criteria, such as certain realism and archaic features borrowed from the Old and Middle Kingdoms. These references to the old models persisted in the Saite Period (26th Dynasty), while the legacy of Kushite kings was even kept by the new Egyptian government.

The two statues of Harwa and Iriketakana presented here express a strong desire for straightforward realism, far from the interests of idealization of the body that prevailed in the art of the New Kingdom. No concession is made on the physical appearance of these dignitaries to qualify it as lacking aesthetic pleasure. At the same time, they probably reflect a first-time attempt to translate an African aesthetic into the formal aesthetics of Egypt, an attempt which will culminate in Meroitic art a few centuries later.

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