Art in ancient Egypt, the Triads of Menkaure

Art in ancient Egypt

Among the different characteristics of art in ancient Egypt, there is a kind of art called the triad. We are going to discuss it in details.

What is the meaning of triad?

Triad is a group of three figures. Most commonly gods e.g. the triad of Memphis, the triad of Thebes, etc. Sometimes kings could be represented as a part of these triads.

The fact about description

The three triads are made out of schist/greywacke brought from the eastern desert and Sinai. Each triad made from a single block of stone. Menkaure is represented standing in the middle flanked by goddess Hathor on one side.

The first triad (with the personification of the 17th nome)

Art in ancient Egypt
Art of ancient Egypt, the first triad

The king is represented standing in the middle with all signs of royalty; wearing the white crown if upper Egypt which is fitted closely around the ears, the false royal beard and the royal shendyt kilt.

He is represented with all the features of the 4th dynasty; full face, strong high cheek bones, big mouth and wide nostrils.

He is clenching his fists around an unknown object maybe a seal or a cylindrical object to show his muscles. He is represented with the features of youth and vigor. This can be seen perfectly in his chest muscles, arms, and legs.

There used to be a collar around his neck (because the pictures of the first discovery showed that clearly) but unfortunately, it is now missing.

Also, he had his cartouche on the belt, but unfortunately it is demolished. He is striding with his left leg stepping forward, which was a traditional attitude for men in ancient Egypt. His arms are pressed to his sides.

On his right side stands goddess Hathor wearing her traditional tripartite or hathoric wig surmounted by the solar disk in between two cow horns.

She is wearing a tight fitting dress showing the details of her body. She is embracing the king with her left arm while holding the “shen” sign, sign if eternity in her right hand.

Her left leg is slightly stepping forward, which shows her elevated status as compared to the other deity who is represented with both feet together.

On his left side stands the personification of the cynopolite nome (the 17thnome of Upper Egypt) nowadays Beni Mazar in El-Minya Governorate, middle Egypt.

She is represented as a female deity wearing a tripartite wig surmounted by the emblem of the 17th nome of Upper Egypt, the jackal god with an ostrich feather fixed at his back.

She is wearing a tight fitting dress showing the details of her body similar to the dress worn by Hathor.

She is embracing the king with her right hand while holding the shen sign in her left hand. Her feet are represented together.

The perfect representation of the human body of the three figures confirms the excellent knowledge of the ancient Egyptian artist for the anatomy of the body as well as his high skill and craftsmanship.

All the details are well represented showing the perfect muscles, wide chest even the tendons and veins of the human body.

On the pedestal of the statue, there are some hieroglyphic inscriptions showing the name and title of the king and goddess Hathor as well as offering text, all carved in sunken relief.

The king’s name and titles of the king are in front of his feet, while the name and title of Hathor are in front of her feet and the offering text wishing the king to have every good thing from the nome is carved in front of the local goddess.

Egypt art: the 2nd-second triad

Egyptian art, the triad of Menkaure
Art in ancient Egypt, second triad

The king is represented in the same attitude as the first triad. He is flanked on the right side by Hathor, who has represented in similar attitude as the first triad also but both her hands are next to her sides.

She is shown with slightly step left leg forward which is considered to be one of the rare examples for a lady to be represented like this.


When we represent a standing lady we must have her two feet beside each other, NO movement of the feet of the lady in the art of the old kingdom.

But here for the first time, we had movement in the left leg of goddess Hathor in order to show her elevated status and to make a balance between the attitude of the king and that of the personification of the nome.

If the legs of Hathor are shown side by side it would seem to us as if the two figures are moving forward and that Hathor is stuck in her place.

In addition to that, goddess Hathor wasn’t an ordinary goddess that’s why she was raised to the rank of the king and represented with a step left leg forward like that.

On his left side is the personification of the Was nome (the 4thnome of Upper Egypt), this is actually the city of Thebes nowadays Luxor, Upper Egypt.

The local deity is a male represented with a false turned up beard as a sign of divinity, wearing a straight tripartite wig surmounted by the emblem of the nome, which is the “Was” scepter topped by an ostrich feather.

The reason for putting the emblem was to differentiate between every local god and the other.

He is represented in a standing attitude wearing a short pleated kilt and his left leg is stepping forward. He is shown on a small scale. The king is shown in the middle to attract the attention. He is also taller.

Ancient Egyptian art: the 3rd the third triad

Art of ancient Egyptians
Egypt art, the third triad

The king and goddess Hathor are represented in a similar attitude as before in the other two triads. Goddess Hathor is represented to the right side of the king, holding the “Shen” sign in her right hand (sign of durability and eternity).

To his left side, there is a female deity representing the personification of the Bat nome (the 7thnome of Upper Egypt) known as Diospolis Parva nowadays Nagee Hamady immediately south of Abydos in Upper Egypt.

She is represented wearing a tripartite wig surmounted by the emblem of the 7thnome, which is the bovine face above the Isis knot (Tyt).

There are a lot of facts about art in ancient Egypt, and the triads of Mycerinus consider a clear evidence of the beauty of Egyptian art.