Enclosed in the protective folds of his cloak in this innovative statue (one of many radically new statue forms that he invented), Senenmut embraces his young charge, the King’s Daughter Nefrure. Senenmut was assigned to act as Nefrure’s tutor, a coveted role he was more than happy to flaunt to his fellow officials. Senenmut knew he couldn’t show himself in Hatshepsut’s sacred presence, but including Nefrure’s image was the next best way to communicate his close relationship with the royal family. And showing Nefrure as a small child granted him the superior position.
© Trustees of the British Museum
Striking in its modernity, the multitiered facade of Hatshepsut’s Temple of Millions of Years was positioned majestically in the most dramatic location in western Thebes. It acted as a giant stage for great festivals of divine propitiation, wild celebration, and ritual solemnity. It also linked Hatshepsut’s kingship to accepted traditions, because she built it right next to the funerary temple of Mentuhotep II, the founder of Theban kingship in ancient Egypt hundreds of years before her reign.
Fly away with your imagination/©2010 Karolina Sus
Like her father before her, Hatshepsut showed herself as the god Osiris. Here on the facade of her Temple of Millions of Years, she depicted herself with the mummified body and crossed arms of the god of regeneration after death. The first skin color she chose for these statues was yellow ocher, the traditional color of a woman. As time went on, she opted for orange, an androgynous blend. Finally, she decided to fully masculinize her imagery, and the latest statues in the series betray the red ocher of masculinity.
©Michelle McMahon via Getty Images
Hatshepsut practically grew up in the sprawling temple complex dedicated to the god Amen, whom she called her father. When she became king, she dedicated a new chapel, built of deep red quartzite (the first time any king used this expensive stone to build a structure), to house the god’s sacred barque, and placed it immediately in front of the holy and exclusive sanctuary where the god’s statue dwelled. The walls detail her duties and achievements to the god, her coronation, and her ritual activity. The inscriptions record the oracles that marked her as the god’s choice to rule all of Egypt.
© Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic via Getty Images
Hatshepsut always took first position in her unorthodox coregency, even though she came to the throne second. Here, the female king and her coregent Thutmose III are in festival procession with the sacred barque of Amen. They are depicted as absolute equals—twins—communicating that both monarchs had the same access to the sacred spirit of kingship.
© Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic via Getty Images
This unfinished obelisk was likely produced during Hatshepsut’s dynasty, but after her reign. It was left in the quarry at Aswan after a deep crack developed along the length of the monolith. This is the largest obelisk the Egyptians ever attempted: 42 meters in length, about thirteen stories high. Hatshepsut’s obelisks, at over ten stories in height, came from the same quarries and were products of the same ancient Egyptian engineering techniques that few other civilizations have equaled. All Egyptian obelisks were sheathed (partially or fully) in precious metals.
© Yann Arthus-Bertrand/Corbis
Only one of Hatshepsut’s obelisks still stands at Amen’s temple in Karnak. Set up in celebration of her jubilee in year 16, it marked the moment when her kingship moved from carefully calculated audacity to full maturity. She had long since masculinized her images, and her co-king was now a partner in rule, leading Egypt’s armies on campaign. The lengthy text places her unusual kingship within the context of religious ideology, making sure to tell her people that everything she had achieved was the will of her father, the god Amen.
© Vanni Archive/Corbis
After her coronation, Hatshepsut’s first moments as king likely took place in a throne room, seated on a raised dais, and she may have looked much like this red granite statue depicting her wearing a traditional, tight-fitting linen sheath dress but also the masculine nemes head cloth of an Egyptian king. The sight must have been strange to behold for all those accustomed to the divine system of masculine kingship.
Rogers Fund, 1929, Torso lent by Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden (L.1998.80), © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Early on in her kingship, Hatshepsut attempted to add a layer of masculinity to her feminine forms, and halfway measures resulted in strange androgyny. On this life-size limestone statue from her Temple of Millions of Years, she shows herself without a shirt, wearing only a king’s kilt, but she retains her gracile shoulders, delicate facial features, and even the generous hint of feminine breasts. The statue is shocking in its blend of masculinity and femininity. It is unknown if she ever dressed this way in public rituals or in festival procession.
Rogers Fund, 1929, © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Eventually, Hatshepsut opted for a fully masculinized image in her statuary, showing herself with wide and strong shoulders, firm pectoral muscles, and no sign of breasts. Even her face is altered: the fuller cheeks and a stronger aquiline nose replaced the Barbie-doll nose of previous portraits. This change in depiction accompanied her own aging process, and we can only wonder how Hatshepsut herself dressed as she got older.
Rogers Fund, 1928, © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Some twenty years after Hatshepsut’s death, Thutmose III sent chisel bearers throughout the land to remove her name and images from Egypt’s sacred temple monuments. Here, in the heart of Karnak temple, artisans so carefully chiseled out her human form that the shadow of her former kingship still haunts Amen’s temple walls.
De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images
This sketch of Hatshepsut’s key lieutenant, Senenmut, looks quite different from the sweet, childlike face shown on his statuary. These portraits betray not only his age, but perhaps also a hint of his shrewd character. His was not the handsome, banal face we see in formal images, but one carved by lines of age. Many such sketches were found in Senenmut’s burial chamber, and on the back of one is the inscription “a lean hairy rat with massively long whiskers,” maybe referring to the reputation of the man himself and betraying the reason so many of his monuments were destroyed after his death.
Anonymous gift, 1931, © The Metropolitan Museum of Art
With the King’s Daughter Nefrure’s tiny head peeking out of Senenmut’s enfolding garments, this statue communicates warmth, love, and protective embrace; by the same token, this publicly displayed stone block constituted an unmistakable and presumptuous communication to all of Senenmut’s peers that his access to Hatshepsut was unrivaled.
© Werner Forman/Corbis
Shown as a queen wearing a king’s crown on this limestone block from the heart of Karnak’s Temple, Hatshepsut audaciously names herself as King of Upper and Lower Egypt and includes her newly granted throne name Maatkare (The Soul of Re Is Truth), all of it, it seems, before the coronation that should grant such divine privileges.
Block discovered by Henri Chevrier at Karnak Temple in 1933, Luxor Museum, drawing by Deborah Shieh
In this relief from a limestone temple once erected at Karnak, Hatshepsut is depicted as the God’s Wife of Amen, likely when she was the Great Royal Wife of Thutmose II or at the very beginning of her regency for Thutmose III. Her ideological and political powers were clearly communicated to her people in the imagery because she stands directly before divinities without the king; she acts as her own mistress. Embraced by the goddess Hathor, she is offered life and power through her nostrils by Seth, god of violent power. Wearing feminine dress and a modius crown, this image was not a target of Thutmose III’s later destruction because here she is not claiming the kingship, only her role as high priestess of Thebes.
Luc Gabolde, via IFAO