Bologna, on loan for two years from the Egyptian Museum in Turin one of the colossal statues of the lion goddess Sekhmet

The Archaeological Museum in Bologna is hosting the colossal statue of Sekhmet for two years on loan from the Egyptian Museum in Turin, which possiee twenty-one specimens.

From July 7, 2021 to December 31, 2023, the colossal statue of Sekhmet will move to the Archaeological Museum of Bologna thanks to the exhibition project Sekhmet, the Mighty. A Lioness in the City, curated by Daniela Picchi.

The initiative is made possible by the collaboration with which the Egyptian Museum of Turin has loaned one of its most significant masterpieces: the sculpture is an earthly materialization of the fearsome Egyptian deity with the head of a lioness and the body of a woman, of which the Turin museum preserves twenty-one examples, among the largest collections outside Egypt.

A deity characterized by her dual nature, as a devastating power but at the same time a dispenser of prosperity, Sekhmet, or “the Mighty One,” was depicted in hundreds of statues at the behest of Amenhotep III, one of the best-known pharaohs of the 18th dynasty (1388-1351 B.C.), to adorn the enclosure of his “Temple of Millions of Years” in West Thebes.

Some scholars speculate that the gigantic sculptural group consisted of two groups of 365 statues, one standing and one seated for each day of the year, so as to create a “litany of stone,” by which Pharaoh wanted to pacify Sekhmet through a daily ritual. In fact, the regularity of rituals in her honor served to appease her destructive wrath that characterized her as the mistress of chaos, war and epidemics, transforming her into a benevolent deity and protector of mankind.

In the Egyptian collection of the Civic Archaeological Museum of Bologna is a bust of one of these sculptures, which, thanks to the comparison with Sekhmet seated on a throne from the Egyptian Museum in Turin, will be able to regain its integrity, creating an opportunity for comparison and scientific research. The statue is displayed in themonumental atrium of Palazzo Galvani and adds to an important repertoire of stone materials. More than two meters tall, Sekhmet welcomes the public and introduces them to a tour of the Egyptian collection.

Sekhmet means"the Mighty One": in fact, the goddess was considered by the Egyptians to be the Eye of the Sun, a symbol of the divine power that sees all, the Fury in the world of the gods, who stands in the guise of the serpent Ureo even on the foreheads of rulers, protecting them. As the Myth of the Heavenly Cow relates, the demiurge Ra had sent Sekhmet to earth to punish men in revolt against the gods. The lioness, intoxicated by the smell of blood, would have annihilated the entire human race had Ra not intervened again, at the suggestion of the god of wisdom Thot, by having a large amount of beer colored with red ochre poured into a lake. Attracted by the color and thinking it was blood, the goddess drank it to the point of drunkenness, forgetting her hatred of men and transforming herself into Hathor, the creative feminine principle, with whom the arrival of the flood of the Nile in Upper Egypt was also associated.

The most striking manifestation of worship toward this deity was due to Pharaoh Amenhotep III (1388-1351 BCE.), who, on the occasion of his jubilee, the celebration of the thirtieth year of his reign, transformed the litanies raised to appease Sekhmet on the last five days of each year, the Days of the Demons, into a stone litany, having more than seven hundred works carved depicting the goddess in a standing position and seated on a throne. Although the statues have been found in various Theban temple areas, many scholars believe that their original location was Kom el-Hattan, Amenhotep III’s “Temple of Millions of Years” in West Thebes, and specifically the solar courtyard within it. In this way the ruler guaranteed himself the protection of the goddess on earth.

The exhibition Sekhmet, the Mighty. A Lioness in the City is organized by the Museo Civico Archeologico in collaboration with the Egyptian Museum of Turin and is part of an intense dialogue and comparison to promote the study and scientific research on their respective collecting heritages.

The Egyptian Museum in Turin owns twenty-one colossal statues of the goddess Sekhmet (ten show the goddess seated on a throne, eleven in a standing position): outside Egypt it ranks second after the British Museum, which holds thirty specimens. It was the naturalist Vitaliano Donati, sent to the East and to Egypt by King Charles Emmanuel III to explore these territories and bring back antiquities and mineralogical, botanical and zoological specimens, who discovered in 1759 the first statue of Sekhmet, which he identified with the goddess Isis, and which would later be transferred to Turin. Thanks to Donati’s Travel Journal, we know that the sculpture was found in the Temple of the goddess Mut at Karnak. The statue and all the materials collected by Donati arrived in Turin after his death in February 1762 aboard a Turkish ship bound for the Malabar coast. The remaining twenty statues arrived in Turin in 1824 with the collection of the French Consul Bernardino Drovetti, which was purchased by King Charles Felix of Savoy at the huge cost of 400,000 Piedmontese liras. Most of these had been discovered in 1818 at the Karnak site by Jean-Jacques Rifaud, one of the agents used by Drovetti to collect antiquities throughout Egypt. Since 1824, the year of the inauguration of the Royal Museum of Antiquities and Egyptian Art in Turin, the twenty-one statues depicting the lioness Sekhmet have graced the Statuary rooms on the ground floor of the Palace that still houses the renovated Egyptian Museum.

Image: Statue of the goddess Sekhmet
Installation at the Civic Archaeological Museum of Bologna
Dating New Kingdom: 18th dynasty, reign of Amenhotep III (1388-1351 BC)
Provenance: Thebes, Egypt
Collection: Drovetti Collection
Material: Granodiorite
Measurements Height: 213 cm.
Place of preservation: Egyptian Museum, Turin, inventory number: Cat. 249
Photo by Alessandro Galli

Bologna, on loan for two years from the Egyptian Museum in Turin one of the colossal statues of the lion goddess Sekhmet
Bologna, on loan for two years from the Egyptian Museum in Turin one of the colossal statues of the lion goddess Sekhmet

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