Sandstone seated statue of Sety II

From the Temple of Karnak, Thebes, Egypt
19th Dynasty, about 1200 BC

Holding a shrine surmounted by a ram's head, emblem of Amun-re

After the great achievements of the early kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty, in particular Sety I (1294-1279 BC) and Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC), the end of the Dynasty is confusing. The next king was Merenptah, who was succeeded by Sety II. The reign of Sety II was marked by at least one period when a shadowy character called Amenmesse briefly occupied the throne. Sety II appears to have regained control, but the Dynasty continued to decline after his death in 1194 BC. He was buried in the Valley of the Kings.

There are few monuments of Sety II's reign, and no large-scale temple structures. However, this fine statue shows that sculpture continued to flourish. The king sits on a cubic throne with a small cushion at the rear. In his hands he holds an image of the head of a ram, a symbol of the god Amun. A seated statue of this type is quite unusual as royal figures presenting these types of emblems to a deity usually stand, kneel or prostrate themselves.

The cartouches on the king's shoulders give his names. On the bottom rear corners of the throne are the intertwined heraldic plants of Upper and Lower Egypt, which symbolises the unity of the two traditional lands of Egypt. The names and epithets of the king are also inscribed on the back pillar and around the base.

This is the most perfectly preserved royal statue in the British Museum's collection. It was discovered by Giovanni Belzoni in 1816, and passed into the collection of Henry Salt. The statue was clearly one of Salt's favourite objects, and he had it sent to England in the autumn of 1819, well in advance of the rest of the collection. This was without doubt to convince the Museum's Trustees to purchase his other objects.

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More information


E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

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


Height: 164.700 cm

Museum number

EA 26


Collected by Giovanni Battista Belzoni (1816)
Acquired in 1823 at the sale of the Salt Collection


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