Ramesses II Colossal Statue Painting

Did Napoleon try to bring this statue to France?

This painting is from a sketch depicting the dragging of a massive colossal statue of Ramesses II. It weighs over 7 tons and is one of the largest pieces in the British Museum. In the 19th century many discoveries were brought from Egypt to Europe. This enormous statue of Rameses II was dragged on rollers for almost 3 miles to the Nile River where it was shipped to the British Museum. Napoleon tried to remove this statue and failed.

The Ramesses II Bust discovery is important in the study of Biblical Archaeology.

From the Ramesseum, Thebes, Egypt
19th Dynasty, about 1250 BC
Height: 266.8 cm 
Width: 203.3 cm (across shoulders) 
Weight: 7.5 tons
Henry Salt Collection
Item: EA 19
Room: # 4, Egyptian sculpture, north
Location: British Museum, London

British Museum Excerpt

Colossal bust of Ramesses II, the 'Younger Memnon'

One of the largest pieces of Egyptian sculpture in the British Museum

Ramesses II succeeded his father Sethos I in around 1279 BC and ruled for 67 years.

Weighing 7.25 tons, this fragment of his statue was cut from a single block of two-coloured granite. He is shown wearing the nemes head-dress surmounted by a cobra diadem. The sculptor has used a slight variation of normal conventions to relate his work to the viewer, angling the eyes down slightly, so that the statue relates more to those looking at it. It was retrieved from the mortuary temple of Ramesses at Thebes (the 'Ramesseum') by Giovanni Belzoni in 1816. Belzoni wrote a fascinating account of his struggle to remove it, both literally, given its colossal size, and politically. The hole on the right of the torso is said to have been made by members of Napoleon's expedition to Egypt at the end of the eighteenth century, in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the statue. The imminent arrival of the head in England in 1818 inspired the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley to write Ozymandias:

... My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.'

After its arrival in The British Museum the 'Younger Memnon' was perhaps the first piece of Egyptian sculpture to be recognized as a work of art by connoisseurs, who traditionally judged things by the standards of ancient Greek art. 

Colossal bust of Ramesses II, the 'Younger Memnon'

Images may be used for non-commercial use.

Biblical Archaeology

Return to Bible History Online