New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, reign of Amenhotep III (1388-1351 BC)
Provenance: originally Thebes, possibly re-used in antiquity, at the Temple of Mut at Karnak, later Drovetti Collection
Sakhmet was the avenging lion-headed goddess, who wore the sundisk as her attribute. By vanquishing foreign enemies, the reigning pharaoh was likened to the combative, fire-spitting Sakhmet. The goddess’ fire connection resulted in her association with the royal uraeus-cobra worn on the king’s forehead, which was equal to the eye of sun god Re, adversary to the enemies of the sun. As the city of Thebes rose in power, the Egyptian priests decided that Mut, consort of the chief god Amun, should be given greater prominence, and so she was assimilated with the powerful and popular Sakhmet. This new version of the goddess resulted in some 400 statues at the Temple of Karnak, of which 200 seated versions, inscribed with a variety of epithets, probably came from the temple of Mut at Karnak. These latter are though to have been dragged to the Mut’s temple for a second use from their original position at the funerary temple of Amenhotep III, located on the west bank of the Nile. In all there may have been some 700 of these monumental sculptures (each weighing over 1400 kg) scattered throughout Egypt. Scholars are divided over the question of the date of production for all these figures, though the consensus is that those carved with rosettes over the breasts are datable to the reign of Amenhotep III. The Museo Egizio has a remarkable 10 seated figures of Sakhmet inscribed with a range of royal names from Amenhotep III to Ramesses IV to Sheshonq and 11 uninscribed standing versions of the goddess.