Cultures & Traditions

Royal Portraiture in Ancient Egypt

In Egypt, portraits of royal figures followed pictorial conventions such as the nemes head cloth and false beard to indicate royalty. Egyptian rulers were represented as eternally strong and youthful in royal portraits as seen in the DMA's portrait of Seti I (1984.50) where the pharoah is depicted as a vital, muscular man even though he was older at the time the portrait was sculpted. Because Egyptians believed that images had the power to grant eternal life to their subjects, important figures like Seti I were carved in durable materials like hard black granite.

Adapted from

"Head and upper torso of Seti I," DMA Connect, Dallas Museum of Art.