Hatshepsut, sculpture & Fijian diplomacy: a series in evolution

Young Hatshepsut was inspired by an exhibition of Egyptian art at San Francisco’s de Young Museum. After we spent a breathtaking day looking at ancient sculpture in the museum, I received this assignment from fellow sculptor Michelle Gregor: I was to make some Egyptian art. Over coffee she told me to go home and make a piece influenced by the magnificent sculptures we had just seen. Of course, I agreed.

Young Hatshepsut
Young Hatshepsut. terracotta, lifesize

The first piece in the series is made with a thick mixture of coarse terracotta clay, something akin to the rough clay used in the pyramids for its strength, durability and color. The figure wears a tall, formal headdress and a blue tunic. She is deep in thought, dignified and relaxed on the throne, and alone. The sculpture is life-size.

I actually dragged my feet on this idea for some time. I wasn’t captured by trying to recreate the ancient forms themselves. Paging through my notebooks, I eventually put together the basic theme. The idea for Young Hatshepsut is to show the child king (Hatshepsut ruled as a king, not a queen) in a private moment. She is sitting on the throne, balancing a tall headdress; daydreaming about her future. Some pieces in the series include animal companions – a cat and a rabbit. The seated pose allows the figure a strong sense of repose and thoughtfulness.


The second piece was conceived and made as a gift for Dr. Bernard and Emily Fennell, after our Queen Emily had pronounced my first Hatshepsut her favorite sculpture. I was honored and delighted. This is a small piece which was freely modeled in a single work session. Here the figure is older, and robust, holding a large contented cat on her lap. It now resides in our sovereign’s bedroom where she can see it every day.

The Fennells raised their three sons while he served as a diplomat in Fiji, the family favorite among his diplomatic foreign service assignments. This brilliant scholar, who has been blessed to spend his life with his beloved, is also an author of wonderful tales. It is my great pleasure to call them my friends.

YHatRabbitSmallThe third sculpture in the series was directly inspired by a conversation in which I learned that Queen Emily, while she enjoyed the cat, had actually had a beloved pet rabbit as a child.

Her rabbit was charcoal gray, with a white belly and chin. Since the rabbit image has long been such a favorite of mine, I made another miniature in the series so she could have the right animal for her piece.

Young Hat small IV
Young Hatshepsut IV

Making the rabbit piece proved to be an inspiration for another,  pushing me to work at a larger scale with the same idea.

The larger Young Hatshepsut with Rabbit is a lifesize terracotta, sitting on a throne with decorations of iconic papyrus, holding a pet rabbit, and wearing papyrus blossoms as a crown. It is the fourth in this series.

Susannah Israel, Oakland California

Published by Susannah Israel

City kid, public education powerhouse, activist from birth. Thinking about life in all its vast complexity.

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