Statue of Ramesses II, the 'Younger Memnon'

From the Ramesseum, Thebes, Egypt, 19th Dynasty, about 1250 BC

Statue of Ramesses II, the 'Younger Memnon'

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One of the largest pieces of Egyptian sculpture in the British Museum, this statue shows Ramesses II, who succeeded his father Sethos I in around 1279 BC and ruled Egypt for 67 years.


Weighing 7.25 tons, this fragment of his statue was cut from a single block of two-coloured granite. He is shown wearing the nemes head-dress surmounted by a cobra diadem.

The sculptor has used a slight variation of normal conventions to relate his work to the viewer, angling the eyes down slightly, so that the statue relates more to those looking at it.

It was retrieved from the mortuary temple of Ramesses at Thebes (the 'Ramesseum') by Giovanni Belzoni in 1816. Belzoni wrote a fascinating account of his struggle to remove it, both literally, given its colossal size, and politically. The hole on the right of the torso is said to have been made by members of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt at the end of the eighteenth century, in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the statue.

The imminent arrival of the head in England in 1818 inspired the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to write Ozymandias:

... My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

After its arrival in the British Museum the 'Younger Memnon' was perhaps the first piece of Egyptian sculpture to be recognized as a work of art by connoisseurs, who traditionally judged things by the standards of ancient Greek art.


Ramesses II, King of Egypt

Ramesses was aged 25 when he ascended the throne as the third king of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt.

Ramesses

In his 67-year reign he probably built more temples and sired more children than any other Egyptian king, and today is known as Ramesses 'the great'.

Read the full article

Abydos

Abydos (Egypt)

Abydos, was the cult centre of the ancient Egyptian god Osiris and a temple of Ramesses II is among the most prominent features of the site.

Read the full article


Ancient Egypt

Video

Towards the end of the fourth millennium BC independent city-states unified to begin of over 3,000 years of pharaonic civilisation in the Nile Valley.

Ancient Egypt world culture

The New Kingdom

The Ramesside period

Statue of Ramesses II

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Statue of Ramesses II

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Object details

Height: 266.8 cm
Width: 203.3 cm

 

EA 19

     

    Henry Salt Collection

    References

    T.G.H. James and W.V. Davies, Egyptian sculpture (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)

    G. Belzoni, Narrative of the operations and recent discoveries within the pyramids, temples, tombs, and excavations in Egypt and Nub, (London, John Murray, 1822)

    S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of ancient Egypt, (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

    See this object in our Collection database online

    Further reading

    B. Kemp, Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization (London, 2005)

    K. Kitchen, Pharoah Triumphant: the Life and Times of Ramesses II (Cairo, 1982).

    I. Shaw (ed.), Oxford History of Ancient Egypt. (Oxford, 2003)

    J. Tyldesley, Ramesses: Egypt’s Greatest Pharoah (London, 2000)

    M. Van der Mieroop, The Eastern Mediterranean in the Age of Ramesses II (London, 2009)