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Senmut (Senenmut)

Senmut (Senenmut)

Flourished Circa 1450



Court Favorite . Few artists and architects left behind clear indications of their work in the form of inscriptions or other evidence, not to mention drawings or statues featuring their faces. One, however, the architect Senmut, attempted to do so by carving small representations of himself and placing them in niches and recesses of the Hathor Chapel, which he built for his queen. Several of the carvings survive. A favorite of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut, Senmut was the primary architect of her temple at Deir el Bahari. Senmut had other important duties in her administration, such as royal steward and overseeing the construction of temples, and he also may have been her lover.

Beautiful Temple. The tri-terraced structure of pillars, with grand reliefs and statues inside, was placed against a towering concave cliff and was approached by a lane that had rows of sphinxes (featuring Hatshepsut’s face) and trees lining each side. Visitors reached the two highest terraces via two grand centrally located ramps, and the structure was more than eight hundred feet wide. Interior reliefs celebrated Hatshepsut’s alleged divine birth, her foreign expeditions, and other events of her reign. Senmut completed the design, originally started by Thutmose II (and possibly the architect Ineni), which was originally more boxlike. The temple took more than fifteen years to build. Although original plans called for her tomb to be placed under the structure, she was actually entombed in the Valley of the Kings. Most of the statues and other artworks were destroyed or covered up by her successor, Thutmose III. Senmut lost favor after his queen’s death, and many of his statues were destroyed—even his carefully planned tomb was filled in and closed.


Betsy M. Bryan, “The Eighteenth Dynasty Before the Amarna Period (c. 1550–1352 b.c.e.),” in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, edited by Ian Shaw (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 218–271.

W. Stevenson Smith, The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt, third edition (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 126–143.

Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt (New York: Thames & Hudson, 2000), pp. 175–178.

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