Baket-Mut, 'Chantress' of Amun
Baket-Mut, 'Chantress' of Amun
19th Dynasty, 1285 - 1270 B.C.
74 x 44 x 49 cm (29 ¹/₈ x 17 ³/₈ x 19 ¹/₄ inches)
Limestone with traces of polychrome
This enigmatic pair statue portrays a husband and wife, seated on a shared plinth and seat. There is a line of inscription running down the skirt of the female figure, allowing us to distinguish her as ‘Baket-Mut’ a ‘chantress’ (songstress) devoted to the temple of Amun. It can be presumed that a line of hieroglyphic inscription once ran down the legs of the male figure, unfortunately this has been lost in antiquity so we are unable to identify him.
Group statues were popular in both the tomb and temple, often depicting husband and wife dyads, or family groups. The earliest documented examples date to the reign of King Djoser in the Third Dynasty (circa 2675–2625 B.C.E.). Most pair statues are created with the female seated on the left of the husband, however in this case she is placed on his right. There is no definite reason why this should be, however it is a possibility that this statue was one of an identical but mirror image pair, to be placed at the entrance of a mastaba or tomb. Baket-Mut’s left arm is placed behind her husband portraying affection, it is also likely that the husband’s right hand once rested over the right hand of Baket-Mut. The same pose is found on the limestone statue of Horemheb (1300BC-1250BC), now kept in the British Museum. The intimacy of this pose helps us to understand the sanctity and importance of marriage and kinship to the Egyptians.
Masterfully carved from limestone, traces of original pigment can be found over areas of the surface, meaning that at the time of production the statue would have been vibrantly painted. It was created during the 19th Dynasty, a period when Egypt was thriving, having enjoyed great prosperity and power for three hundred years. As the Egyptian borders expanded, influences came from newly occupied territories and vassal states such as the Canaanites and the Anatolian Hittites. It is widely acknowledged that the New Kingdom produced the most awe-inspiring and stylistic art. The wealth of the country was reflected in the enormity of individual artworks as well as their quality.
The clothing worn by the couple can go some way in helping us date the sculpture, as they are depicted wearing the fashions set by the royal family of late Dynasty XVIII and early Dynasty XIX. This also shows that the seated couple were wealthy and operated in high society. Baket-Mut’s dress is simple and close fitting, with almost the suggestion of nudity with the visibility of her navel. Although the husband’s legs and upper torso have been lost, there are enough clues remaining to allow us to speculate on his appearance. His clothing, like his wife’s, follow the styles set by the royals. A two-part outfit consisting of a wrapped skirt with sash sits high on his hips, and a tunic would have covered his upper torso, the remnants of pleated sleeves are visible on his upper arms. Baket-Mut is also depicted wearing an elaborate wig of plaited locs terminating in intricate beading, secured along the forehead with a wide headband. Wigs of this style were first introduced in Dynasty XVIII and examples have been found in the tombs of New Kingdom royalty and elite.
The name ‘Baket-Mut’ can be translated to mean ‘Handmaiden of the Goddess Mut’; ‘Mut’ being the ‘Mother Goddess’, a primal deity associated with parthenogenesis (reproduction without fertilization) and water. ‘Mut’ was also the consort to the God ‘Amun’, along with their son, ‘Khonsu’, they make up the Theban triad. As a ‘Chantress’ in the temple of Amun, she can be firmly linked to these principal Theban deities.
Hailing from an era renowned for its unparalleled artistic accomplishment, this striking dyad preserves not only the skill of the sculptor; but embodies the spirit of New Kingdom art. Sculpture of this pedigree, scale and importance is seldom available to the private market and would be an exceptional acquisition for any private or museum collection.
L’Ibis Gallery, New York, 1987-1988.
The Winter Antiques Show, New York, 2003.
The Michael C. Carlos Museum, Atlanta, Georgia, 2012-2016.
L’Ibis Gallery Exhibition Poster, taken in 1987 by John Kasparian.
“Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Statues, Reliefs and Paintings VIII”, Part 2, Private Statues (Dynasty XVIII to the Roman Period), Statues of Deities, Jaromir Malek, Oxford, 1999, p.511. 801-614-640.
Cover of Spring/Summer Calendar 2013, Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta.
“Baket-Mut Chantress of Amun”, 2017.
David Aaron, 2018-19, No. 13.
Formerly in the Private Collection of Ernst Kofler (1899-1989) and Marthe Truniger (1918-1999), Lucerne, Switzerland, acquired prior to 1964.
With Lucian Viola, acquired from the above in the early 1980s.
Private American Collection.
ALR: S00201734, with IADAA certificate, this item has been checked against the Interpol database.
Ernst and Marta Kofler-Truniger, from Lucerne, Switzerland were prominent collectors during the first half of the 20th century. Their marriage in 1940 united kindred spirits and from then into the 1960s, the couple travelled to Paris, London, New York, Egypt (every year beginning in 1948), Beirut, and wherever there was a chance of discovering something special.
During the 1950s and ‘60s Ernst Kofler and his wife Marthe Truniger collected over one thousand items of ancient art, ranging from Islamic pottery, Persian miniatures, enamels, Roman glass, Egyptian artefacts and medieval ivories.
The first ancient Egyptian objects collected by the Kofler-Trunigers were two beautiful faience tiles with coloured glaze and paste inlays depicting a Nubian and an Asiatic prisoner. They had once decorated a wall in the temple of Ramesses III at Medinet Habu (Western Thebes). The Kofler-Trunigers acquired them from the Eugene Mutiaux Collection in Paris.
Shortly thereafter finds from Tell el-Amarna, which show a similar technique combining faience and coloured glass paste, were added to the collection, along with exquisite fragments of Late Period glass inlays created in mosaic glass technique. Many of the mosaic glass fragment were bought from the collection of the Comtesse Martine Marie Octavie de Béhague and many were later re-sold at Christie’s London in 1985.
These initial acquisitions of Egyptian art stimulated the Kofler-Truniger’s interest in the ancient civilization that produced them, inspiring the couple to make many journeys to Egypt where they became well acquainted with Pharaonic culture.
In 1961 a small selection of the Egyptian objects from the Kofler-Truniger collection was included in the exhibition, ‘5000 Years of Egyptian Art’ at the Kunsthaus Zurich. In 1962 Kofler-Truniger donated a large quantity to Egyptian art to the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and later went on to donate art to various other establishments including the Museum of Fine Art in Huston. A part of their collection of ancient Egyptian art was published by Hans Wolfgang Müller, Ägyptische Kunstwerke, Kleinfunde und Glas in der Sammlung E. und M. Kofler-Truniger Luzern (1964) (see catalogue cover on the left), to accompany an exhibition of their objects held at the Kunsthaus, Zürich. In 1964 a larger group of objects from the collection was exhibited at the International Festival Weeks in Zürich. The catalogue for this exceptional exhibition was written by Prof. Dr. Hans Wolfgang Müller (1907–1991), then Director of the Egyptian Collection, Bavarian State Collection, Munich. In 1970 they sold many items of Medieval and Renaissance enamels to Mr Edmund de Unger, which helped the tycoon to form his renowned ‘Kier collection’.
The Kofler-Truniger’s exceptional collections are now dispersed in museums and private collections throughout the world. The works of art they so carefully collected continue to be admired and studied by those all who see them while they enrich our knowledge of the ancient culture that created them, a testament to the remarkable couple who originally collected them.