Erich Lessing

In this red-granite carving, the female pharaoh Hatshepsut (c. 1473–1458) kneels and offers a vessel to the gods. Housed in Berlin’s Staatliche Museen, the statue portrays Hatshepsut as a bearded male king. Indeed, most of her images depict her in male dress, without breasts (for a prominent exception, see the photo of pink-granite statue of a seated Hatshepsut). Was Hatshepsut being devious about her sex? Probably not. Author Gay Robins explains that she was simply enacting the role of a traditional Egyptian king—a role played by only a few women in 3,000 years of ancient Egyptian history. For Hatshepsut’s authority to be recognized, Egyptian artists portrayed her as tradition dictated: in male guise.