This masterpiece of New Kingdom art portrays Senenmut, the most favored official of the dowager Queen Hatshepsut, who reigned from about 1473–1458 B.C., offering an image of Renenutet, goddess of the harvest and nourishment, on behalf of the well-being of his sovereign and in hopes of eternal blessings for himself. Senenmut was the first commoner since the Old Kingdom to enjoy a level of wealth, prestige, and privilege approaching that traditionally associated with royalty. As the queen’s advisor and tutor of her only daughter, Neferure, Senenmut held more than eighty titles (including Great Treasurer of the Queen; Chief Steward of the King; and Overseer of the Treasury, Granary, Fields, and Cattle of Amun), which permitted him control over the vast resources of the royal family as well as of the state god, Amun. As chief royal architect, he was also responsible for many major building projects and is credited with the design of the splendid funerary temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir-el-Bahri in western Thebes (c. 1458 B.C.).
In this portrait statue, carved from a gray green schist, Senenmut grasps a symbolic cobra that supports a sun disk and cowhorns and rests on a base composed of two upraised arms (the hieroglyphic sign for “Ka”)—a magical gesture intended to preserve life and ward off evil. The inscription consists of three vertical lines of incised hieroglyphs on the obelisk-shaped back pillar of the statue and continues around the base, on the top edge of the base, and vertically on the edges of the back. The name of Senenmut has been intentionally erased from the inscription, probably in the aftermath of Hatshepsut’s demise or by priests hostile to Amun. The cartouche on the right arm reads: “The good goddess, Maat-ka-Re [Hatshepsut’s throne name], given life.” Sculptures of Senenmut are rare, and of the twenty-two known examples only a handful survive intact.
Adult: Kneeling Statue of Senenmut, Chief Steward of Queen Hatshepsut
Eli Massey, Geneva, Switzerland, 1960–1963;
private collection, Switzerland and New York, 1963–1976.
(Artinba AG, Basel, Switzerland);
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1985.