Egyptian art, 2 statues of Hetepdief and Khasekhem

Art of ancient Egypt

In this article, you can explore some important characteristics about the Egyptian art of the Old Kingdom, which represented in these 2 statues of Hetepdief and Khasekhem.

Statue of Hetepdief

Art of ancient Egypt
Egyptian art, the statue of Hetepdief

The importance of this statue is that it is one of the first examples of the private statues if the old kingdom. For the first time, the figure is represented in a kneeling position with the hands on the knees.

We can see that sculpture was at a very early stage of development retaining the archaic style of art, for example, the head is big practically sinking between the shoulders in order to avoid weak points (i.e. the neck).

The statue itself:

It is a kneeling statue of Hetepdief. It is made of pink granite, which was quarried from Aswan.

It was discovered at Memphis (ancient mn nfr, (meaning the beautiful monuments or stable and beautiful) Mit Rahina in Giza nowadays) in 1888.

It dates back either to the end of the 2nd dynasty (judging from the presence of the names of the 1st three kings of the 2nd dynasty) or to the 3rd dynasty.

This had been suggested by scholars who compared the style of art used for the inscriptions at the base, which is executed in raised relief, to contemporary art pieces of the 3rd dynasty.

Hetpdief (htp di f his name means he gives peace or joy) was a funerary priest who served under the first three kings of the 2nd dynasty as their Horus names are engraved on the back of his right shoulder.

The dating of the statue:

Hetep di f was the priest was the priests of the first three kings of the second dynasty, but this doesn’t mean that he is from the second dynasty … because:

According to the features of the face and the type of the hieroglyphs, we must date our statue to the third dynasty and not to the 2nd dynasty.

Ancient Egypt art
Art of Egypt, the back of the statue

Note about priests in ancient Egypt:

There were different kinds of priests who served in temples in ancient Egypt:

  1. high priest: he was responsible for all temple services, revenues, and internal affairs.
  2. lector priest hry hb: he was responsible for hymns and rituals recited in festivals.
  3. wb priest: he was responsible for purification rituals.
  4. Daytime priest: responsible for rituals and services performed during the daytime.
  5. Funerary priests e.g. Sem priest: responsible for mummification and funerary rituals.

The role of priests was extremely important in ancient Egypt. They were considered as the intermediary between the supreme untouchable gods (or the kings) and the normal human beings (or ordinary people).

Not only for performing religious rituals but most importantly they influenced the social and political life of the people. They could even manipulate the power of the king.

This was achieved through two ways: either by consolidating or weakening his power, because of the great respect that they were regarded with among the people of Egypt.

Art of Egypt: the statue of Khasekhem

Egypt art
Art of ancient Egypt, the statue of Khasekhem

Historical background:

Khasekhem or Khasekhemwy is the last ruler of the 2nd dynasty. He was probably the father of king Djoser (founder of the 3rd dynasty) from his wife Nimaatheo. He ruled for about 48 years.

The statue itself:

It made out of schist, which was quarried from the eastern desert in Sinai. It was discovered in 1898 by a British archaeologist called Kames Quibell in a storeroom under the “early dynastic temple of Horus” at Kierakonpolis.

It was discovered together with another statue of the king (now kept at the Ashmolean museum, oxford, UL), as well as an inscribed granite doorjamb, decorated stone vessels and a fragment of a stela.

Its importance comes from the fact that it is the first example of royal statuary to be discovered from ancient Egypt.


The king is represented seated on a low-backed throne. Half of the head is broken. He is wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt, known as in ancient Egyptian language.

The sculptor was very clever in modeling the features of ancient Egyptian art, as he showed the facial features, as well as the rest of the body, even thought that this statue is the earliest example of royal statuary.

He was skillful enough to show the delicate features of the king like the eyes, the extended cosmetic lines, the nose and the mouth in spite of the fact that schist was a very hard stone.

Khasekemwy is wearing the Heb-Sed garment, which is kind of folded over the chest, covering the entire body and reaching down to the middle of his legs. His left hand is placed on the other, which is placed on his lap.

We can see he has clenched fists, probably holding the royal insignia, which had unfortunately fallen off.

The base of the statue (pedestal) bears some inscriptions in the form of slain enemies represented on both sides of the pedestal under the feet of the king to probe their complete subjugation.

Between his feet, there is a small representation of a Serekh.

At the front of the base, the inscriptions show the number of the captivated enemies: 47,209, which seem to be a bit exaggerated.

These 2 statues consider one of the most significant artifacts of Egyptian art.