Ruling Egypt from about 2428 to 2416 BC, Sahure was a both politically and culturally outstanding king of the Fifth Dynasty and thus a prominent representative of the Old Kingdom, the “Age of the Pyramids.” Amongst all known pyramid complexes, that of Sahure in Abusir near Cairo with a total length of just under 500 meters reveals a pure, classical form of strict axiality and perfection. The walls are decorated with 10,000 square meters of royal relief art and form an abundant picture book of the Old Kingdom.
Reliefs, architectural elements, sculptures, vases, and valuable papyruses on loan from the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection in Berlin, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, give evidence of the worship this great Egyptian pharaoh enjoyed.
The kings of the Fifth Dynasty share a new notion of their descent from the sun god Ra, the most powerful deity. This new notion derived from changes that can already be seen to emerge in the Fourth Dynasty. The Westcar Papyrus, one of the most famous documents of Egyptian culture, tells us that Sahure was fathered by Ra and given birth by a mortal woman. Considering this we will find it less sursprising that Userkaf, Sahure’s predecessor, Sahure himself, and his successors Neferirkare Kakai, Neferefre, Nyuserre Ini, and Menkauhor Kaiu had not only built their own funerary temples on the desert’s fringe, but also erected stupendous edifices for the sun god. One cult center was not enough, each son had his own place of worship erected for his divine father and thus established a direct relationship between himself and god. The sun temple of Sahure mentioned in the texts has not been discovered so far. A special section of the exhibition in Frankfurt sheds light on the sun temple of Pharaoh Nyuserre Ini – the only well-preserved and investigated site.
A special chapter of the exhibition is dedicated to the scientist and explorer Ludwig Borchardt, who discovered Sahure’s pyramid complex in the early twentieth century and from whose excavations important reliefs from Sahure’s temple complex came into the possession of the Liebieghaus in the course of the finds’ distribution. Historical documents, diaries, and drawings convey a comprehensive picture of the excavation history of Sahure’s pyramid temple which began more than one hundred years ago and still continues today.
Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung Website
Please click here for a Culturekiosque archive review of Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids.