Tut Exhibit - King Tutankhamun Exhibit, Collection: Jewelry - Squatting Figure of a King

The Tutankhamun Exhibit

Jewelry and Ornamentation

Squatting Figure of a King

Squatting Figure of a King

In the absence of a written attribution, it is not possible to identify with certainty the king whom this little solid gold figure represents. Howard Carter, whose opinion has been generally accepted, thought it was a statuette of Amenhotpe III (c. 1386-1349 B.C.). His identification was based on the circumstances of the discovery. It was placed, wrapped in linen, in a small gilded coffin, and with it were two smaller coffins, one fitting inside the other, the innermost of which not only bore the name of Amenhotpe III's wife, Queen Teye, but also contained a lock of her auburn hair. Carter supposed that the figure and the lock of hair were buried with Tutankhamun as heirlooms, because he was the last direct successor of Amenhotpe III.

Carter's theory, however, seems to attach too little importance to the evidence offered by the inscriptions on both the coffin within which the figure was placed and an outermost coffin of wood coated with black resin. In both the king named is Tutankhamun himself; no mention of Amenhotpe III occurs on any item in the equipment. It appears more probable, therefore, that the figure represents Tutankhamun. Some support for this identification may be gained from the fact that the lobes of the ears are pierced for earrings, a feature that is rare in representations of kings before Akhenaton.

Nothing in the king's dress or accouterments is indicative of the purpose of the figure. It is obvious, however, that it was intended to be worn as a pendant. On his head is the khepresh crown with erect cobra, or uraeus, a royal headdress that was worn in many different circumstances: in battle, in religious and secular ceremonies, and in private life. Apart from the headdress, he wears only a glass bead necklace and a kilt with the regular apron in front. In his right hand he holds the crook and flail, symbols of his title to the throne of Osiris; his left hand rests on his knee. At the back of the neck is a loop for the gold suspension chain, shown with the figure. Instead of a clasp, linen cords with tassels were attached to the chain for fastening the necklace.

Egyptian kings and nobles are often shown on monuments wearing necklaces with pendants, but as a rule the pendants have an amuletic character. A squatting king is exceptional iconographically and its underlying conception is not obvious. At first sight the pose suggests that the king is represented as the infant sun-god emerging from the flower of the lotus that grew in the primordial waters at the time of the creation of the universe. But the lotus was a vital element in the portrayal of that episode and it would certainly not have been omitted by the artist if his intention had been to commemorate it. Furthermore the king, although young in appearance (as would be expected in a representation of Tutankhamun) is clearly not a newborn child.

Artistic convention for many centuries before the time of Tutankhamun had decreed that kings, unless they were engaged in one of the recognized royal activities such as hunting, warfare, or religious ceremonies, should be portrayed either standing or seated on the throne. Even before the end of Amenhotpe III's reign, however, conventional styles were undergoing notable changes and the process developed into a revolution under Tutankhamun's predecessor, Akhenaton. In a restrained form some of the innovations of the Amarna period were continued by Tutankhamun. This figure may well owe its inspirations to the new school and may possess no particular symbolical significance.