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Princess Meritamun, "the White Queen"
 
This statue was discovered in 1896 in a chapel north-west of the Ramesseum in Thebes.  It is master piece of its period and demonstrates the sensitive nature of the artist.
 
Even though only the titles, and not the name of the queen are preserved on the rear pilaster, this piece has been identified as a statue of Meritamun, one of the daughters of Ramesses II. On the death of Nefertari (some time after the 21st year of the Ramesses' reign) she took on the role of the Great Royal Wife. She was known only a the "White Queen" until the discovery in 1981 of a colossal statue at Akhmim in Upper Egypt besides a similar statue of Rameses II at the entrance to the New Kingdom temple. The Akhmim statue was similar to this statue in epithets and titles and is inscribed with the name of the princess Meritamon, daughter of Queen Nefertari and Rameses II. She became Great Royal Wife of Rameses II after the death of her mother.
 
The inscriptions say  that Meritamon was the beloved of her lord, the great one of the harem of Amun-Ra, a musician, a chantress and a dancer of different divinities at Thebes and in Upper Egypt.  Meritamon wears a crown surrounded by a diadem.  On her forehead are two uraei wearing the crown of upper Egypt.  She is wearing earrings, a broad collar and a bracelet.  Her Right breast is ornamented with a rosette and her left hand, resting on her left breast, is holding a musical instrument, symbol of Hathor (goddess of Beauty, Love and Music).
 
The painted decoration of the statue is still very well preserved. The yellow of some of the facial features and decorative elements combines well with the blue of the wig, both of which are enhanced by the brightness of the extremely fine limestone used for the sculpture.
 
The face has a serene expression. The eyes are almond shaped, elongated by a line of cosmetic (shown by two thin incisions), and set below heavy eyebrows. The full mouth is set in a slight smile, similar to those seen on a number of statues of Ramesses II. Thin lines are incised on the neck. The lobes of the ears are covered by large hemispherical earrings.

The delicate face is framed by a three-part wig, from which the natural hair emerges, and is held in place by a diadem featuring two cobras wearing the White and Red Crowns, the symbols of Upper and Lower Egypt. On top of her head the queen wears a circular diadem, its base decorated all the way round with a frieze of uraei with solar discs. From this base would once have risen a double plume with a solar disc at the centre, a prerogative of the Great Royal Brides.

Meritamun wears a tightly fitting tunic. Around her shoulders is a broad-collar necklace consisting of six rows of beads, five of which are in the form of small amulets of the hieroglyph nefer ('beautiful'). The last row consists of drop shaped beads. A rosette decorates her left breast while the right breast is covered by the counterweight of the menat necklace which she is holding in her right hand. On her wrist is a bracelet composed of two rows of beads.

The menat necklace was used as a musical instrument and was shaken to produce a loud noise on the occasion of the feasts held in honour of Hathor or other female divinities. The necklace was composed of numerous strands of beads, balanced with a large counterweight, in this case in the form of a female head and ending in a circular element with a rosette.

In ancient Egypt taking part in processions, singing, dancing and playing musical instruments was a typically female prerogative. Priestesses were frequently indicated with their specific functions within the train of the divinity and it was only natural that the queen herself performed a number of these priestly functions. The fragmentary hieroglyphic inscription on the dorsal pillar of the statue reads '...player of the sistrum of Mut and the menat necklace [of Hathor] ... dancer of Hathor....'.
 


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