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Reliefs, Statues, and Statuettes






This beautiful, amazingly preserved statuette does not have "Cleopatra VII"

inscribed anywhere on it.

          1) As previously described, she wears the triple uraeus crown on top of a

              traditional tri-partite wig ... only Cleopatra did that,

          2) In her left hand, she carries a Greek double-cornucopia, only Ptolemaic

               queens did that starting with Arsinoe II (whom Cleopatra used as a role


          3) Her right hand would've held an Egyptian ankh from both her hand position

               and the style of the entire statuette:  it is very Egyptian from her tri-partite

               wig, to her delicate form-fitting dress (she is NOT naked), to her


There is still speculation about the meaning of the triple uraeus.  It is suspected that it signifies something new, something different in her reign.  It could reflect the relationship with Rome via Julius Caesar, it could reflect the possibility that her son Ptolemy Caesar could rule both the Two Lands and Rome, it could reflect the regaining of lands in the East rebuilding the empire (Clodius annexed Cyprus, Caesar gave it back).

IMHO: There's a lot of iconography, propaganda, and politics going on with images, but the Ptolemaic/Hellenistic period of Egypt combined 1000's of years of portraiture with artistic sensibilities of classical Greece.  My guess is that this shows a young Cleopatra true-to-life, possibly after the birth of Ptolemy Caesar but before she started wearing the complicated Nekhbet(vulture)/Isis/Hathor crowns.

Cleopatra, Ptolemy Caesar, and Ptolemy XIV went to Rome around 46 BC.  Caesar put them up in his villa right across the Tiber from his house.  Caesar's family 'tribe' (gens Julia) claimed ancestry back to Venus herself, and Caesar built his own temple of Venus Genetrix by the forum that he also built.  Caesar had a statue of Cleopatra carved from life, gilt, and placed in the temple.  It was described as Cleopatra-as-Isis-as-Venus.  It stood in the temple for over 400 years and was the model probably used by Roman writers when they described a Cleopatra that had died before their grandfathers were born.  There is some speculation that this statue is a small model of the Venus Genetrix statue (available for Cassius Dio & Appian).

Hermitage Museum, 

St. Petersburg, Russia


Rosicrucian Museum,

San Jose, California

This statue is life-size.  It's clear there was a crown (probably at least Hathor/Isis) that was broken off.  It's a very Egyptian-styled design: appropriate stance, sheer body-hugging dress, ankh in right hand (absent), wig, ... and the triple-uraeus of Cleopatra VII.

IMHO the body is more "mature" than the Hermitage one.  Possibly a later carving, particularly with respect to the clear evidence of a crown that's been broken off.  Maybe it comes from Marc Antony time ... after the twins.

This is Cleopatra VII with the triple-uraeus holding a ceremonial fly-whisk, next to Queen Tiye with the same thing, 1400 years earlier.  Cleopatra sometimes wore the two ostrich feathers crown on top of the Hathor/Isis crown.  Tiye sometimes wore the tri-partite wig.  Both are quite small, but IMHO the features are quite different, although others opinions may differ.  Cleopatra did make a determined effort to align herself with Pharaohs and Egyptian beliefs more ancient than the Ptolemies.


 Musée du Louvre

Paris, France

 Musée du Louvre

Paris, France


Metropolitan Museum,

New York

This Cleopatra VII was clearly made outside of Egypt: there's nothing "Egyptian" about it.  It's got the triple uraeus plus a cornucopia: those two symbols make it Cleopatra VII, but the rest is all wrong.  The wig is incorrect, she's wearing some kind of Roman drapey dress, but her breasts are exposed ... almost like a Minoan ... with fabric gathered up between them and pinned (Egyptians had no such thing).  She hasn't got legs, but it appears they're straight instead of one extended in the ceremonial pose.   It's Cleopatra, perhaps, as described by someone who dreamed about her in a distant country ... to a police artist. 

As far as this being the only statuette that has an inscription: "the cartouche actually reading 'Cleopatra' on this statue's arm would be a highly unusual occurrence, and is, moreover, incorrectly oriented, so that it is probably a modern addition."

--- Metropolitan Museum

I'm not qualified to call this a "hoax" ... I think it's more like a tourist souvenir.


Cleopatra VII images occur all over Egypt, unfortunately, most have not survived 2000 years of weathering very well.  The Temple of Hathor in Dendera just has a particularly good collection of images done throughout her life, and some consider it the best preserved temple in all of Egypt. 


Religious buildings in the Dendera complex were first constructed in the area under Pepi and Khufu, and maintained and upgraded by Amenemhat I, Thutmose III, Thutmose IV, Ramesses II, and Ramesses III ... then, Ptolemies X, and XI.  It was Ptolemy XII that undertook construction of the Temple of Hathor and Cleopatra "decorated" it for the duration of her reign.  The Roman emperors Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Trajan, and Domitian all were involved with some additional building. 


Dendera is only a little north of Karnak/Luxor/Thebes: with all the massive temples there, why bother about Dendera?  Dendera was the center of the Hathor cult: one of the primary Egyptian goddesses involved with joy, feminine love, motherhood, marriage, and healing.  She was identified with the planet Venus in the night sky.  There was a sanatorium inside the complex for visiting pilgrims petitioning the goddess for cures.  Hathor was a very "present" god to every day peasants.  Romans considered her a flavor of their Venus.

When Ptolemy XII re-built the Temple of Hathor, the only Cleopatra alive was Cleopatra VII.  The reliefs on the outside walls all have identifying cartouches.  Curiously, besides the Hypostyle Hall, Room XX, and the crypts, interior cartouches are blank.  However, like every pharaoh before him, Ptolemy XII utilized building materials from collapsing structures ... consequently, Pepi and some previous Ptolemies appear inside the building.  If there's a Cleopatra with a named Ptolemy other that XII, it's not VII.  If her cartouche is blank, single, or she's paired with Ptolemy XII or XV (Ptolemy Caesar), it's Cleopatra VII.


This is the rear wall of the Temple of Hathor.  On the left is the relief that is most popularly reproduced: Cleopatra VII behind her son Ptolemy Caesar, each with two identifying cartouches: birth name and Horus name.  In classic Egyptian style, the right side of the wall is a mirror image, but in much poorer shape so it's rarely photographed.  Despite Ptolemy Caesar being a child at this time, he's presented as a young man (also consistent with Egyptian iconography).  The little guy, next to Hathor, is Hathor's son, Ihy (the sistrum-player).  There's some speculation that Cleopatra VII also appears to the left of the round thing (damaged giant Hathor cow-eared face) in the middle, with Arsinoe II on the right: neither have cartouches so this is artistic speculation.


I'm really sorry about this one.  I tied it back to the book where it was published and explained why it has to be Cleopatra VII ... and it turns out to be a fake.  There are lots of people that were fooled and have reproductions and high quality photographs ... just like me.

If you go to Dendera you won't see this image and cartouche anywhere ... because it's not there.  The image is there, but not the cartouche, because this isn't Cleopatra VII: it's Isis (above the original in Dendera is one of the hieroglyphs for her name).  

A man named Michel Ange Floris was a "restorer" of Egyptian artifacts for museums in the mid-late 1800's.  Unlike Napoleon that ripped out the Dendera zodiac by the roots and took it to Paris (where it still resides), Floris made an "over-molded" cast of a wall relief of a goddess, then took it back to the Boulaq Museum and made a very nice reproduction.  One of the curators liked it so much he decided to improve it by adding Cleopatra's cartouche to the mold.  

It did come out nicely.  This picture is in many books with titles like "The Famous Cleopatra" ... but it's not her.  I accepted it, too ... until I found a number of references discussing it as a known fake.  If you go to Dendera, try to find the un-cartouched version where it all started.

FAKE!! from Boulaq Museum

Dendera Reading List
















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