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9 / Portraits

Standing Statue of Hatshepsut
Standing Statue of Hatshepsut
Artist / Origin Unknown artist, Thebes, Egypt
Region: Africa
Date New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1479–1458 BCE
Material Granite (originally with paint)
Medium: Sculpture
Dimensions H: 94 ½ in. (242 cm.) (without base)
Location The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, New York
Credit © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

expert perspective

Anne McClananProfessor of Art History, Portland State University
Richard BrilliantProfessor Emeritus of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

Standing Statue of Hatshepsut

» Unknown artist, Thebes, Egypt

expert perspective

Richard Brilliant Richard Brilliant Professor Emeritus of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

Power portraits go back to remote antiquity. I mean ancient Egypt, with colossal figures of pharaohs and of the gods, but particularly of pharaohs who were represented in colossal images, statues, many of which fortunately have survived—from the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom, the New Kingdom—which were intended to show the authority and the power of the pharaoh as a semi-divine character or divine-like character, who was the ruler of the world. Such images of the pharaohs were intended to impose upon the spectator, the ordinary Egyptian, a sense of the distance between themselves and these beings represented in a colossal scale. So one of the ways in which power portraits function is by colossality. Being larger than life size.

If you are larger than life size by implication you’ve got more than life size power and authority. That’s been a use of colossal images from remote antiquity for 5000 years. It is also something used as well outside of political circumstances for images of the gods, colossal images of the gods are colossal in part as a vehicle for representing their power and authority over you, the spectator.” 

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