Mentuhotep II Nebhepetre was the fifth king of Dynasty 11. Ruling from Thebes and building on the efforts of his predecessors, he succeeded in reuniting Egypt under one king. In place of the large courtyard tombs of his ancestors, he built a combination mortuary temple and tomb on a large platform against the cliffs in Deir el-Bahri at Thebes.
This colossal standing statue of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II was excavated by the Museum's Egyptian Expedition from the lower forecourt of his mortuary temple. Originally, twenty-two seated and standing statues of the king lined the processional way from the pylon of the enclosure wall to the base of the ramp leading up to the temple platform. Herbert Winlock, who excavated the temple, suggested that the statues wearing the red crown were placed on the north side of the processional way—the north being Lower Egypt—and those with the white crown of Upper Egypt were placed on the south side. All were deliberately broken up and buried in antiquity and the head of this statue was found some distance away and does not belong to it.
The king is depicted in the Osirid or mummiform pose, with legs close together and arms crossed over his breast. The hands are pierced for a crook-shaped scepter and flail (now lost) and he wears a close-fitting knee-length white robe. His skin was painted red. On his head he wears the red crown of Lower Egypt, and traces of the divine beard of Osiris remain on his chest. The extraordinary heaviness of the figure and the trunklike aspect of the legs may have been a deliberate choice to allow this large statue in relatively soft sandstone to stand exposed in the forecourt of the temple. The rough base was probably set flush into the pavement and the statue appeared to stand directly on the ground rather than on a base like most ancient Egyptian statuary.
Colossal statue of Mentuhotep II, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11, ca. 2051–2000 b.c.
H. 99 1/4 in. (252 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1926 (26.3.29)