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HOME : Egyptian Antiquities : Archive : Egyptian Black Stone Head
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Egyptian Black Stone Head - PF.5603
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 500 BC to 300 BC
Dimensions: 3.75" (9.5cm) high
Catalogue: VXXIX
Collection: Egyptian Antiquities
Medium: Diorite


Additional Information: SOLD

Location: UAE
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Description
This portrait of an elite member of the Egyptian bureaucracy is designed as an idealizing image. The ovoid-shape of his head is one which gained in popularity over the course of the Late Period and one which exhibits several variations. Although such heads are more commonly represented as completely shaved, others, such as our portrait here, are shown with short coiffures, resting snugly against the scalp with the hairline simply indicated by a raised plane which ends in a tab in front of the ears. The small, almond-shaped eyes are hieroglyphic in design, their lids plastically rendered with the upper crossing over the lower. These are set into fairly deep sockets beneath a natural brow which merges imperceptibly into the narrow bridge of the nose. The wings of the nose are small with their nostrils somewhat prominently revealed. A perceptible philtrum and protruding, round chin frame the mouth with its lips pursed into a smile. The upper lid is thinner than the fleshier lower, and their corners are drilled. There is an attempt to call attention to the cheek bones via a series of subtly merging planes of the face which represent its muscles reacting to the smile of the lips. The resulting image is canonical, and as such is a consummate example of one of most popular types of idealizing portraits created by the artisans of the Egyptian Late Period.

In keeping with Egyptian design tenets, the statue to which this head belonged, was provided with a back pillar which is rectangular in shape. The top of the back pillar extends to just above the occipital bulge at the nape of the neck to about the level of the hair line. Such a design is known from statues dated by their inscriptions to the fourth century BC.

There is the possibility that the individual represented by this idealizing portrait wished to be associated with Imhotep because the ovoid shape of his head and the cap-like, short hair cut defined by its raised plane are common to images of Imhotep in both bronze and stone of the period. Such an association is also implied in the very similarly designed image of Tha-aset- imu whose enigmatic inscriptions associate him with ancient Egyptian intercessors who act on behalf of their neighbors. The individual represented by this portrait perhaps styled himself as just such an intercessor for the benefit of those under his authority.

References:

In addition to the publication cited above, see B. V. Bothmer, et al., Egyptian Sculpture of the Late Period (Brooklyn 1960), nos. 65, 74 (Tha-aset- imu), and 78; Robert Steven Bianchi, .”The Egg- Heads: One Type of Generic Portrait from the Egyptian Late Period,” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Gesellschafts- und Sprachwissenschaftliche Reihe 31, nos. 2/3 (1982), 149ff (=Römisches Porträt: Wege zur Erforschung eines gesellschaftlichen Phäonmens), for this portrait type; Dietrich Wildung, Imhotep und Amenhotep (Munich 1977), pl. III, passim, for images of Imhotep in this style and with their coiffure in both sculpture in the round and in relief; and E. A. Arslan [editor], Iside. Il Mito Il Mistero La Magia (Milan1977), page 451, number V.83, for a very recently discovered monument depicting an image, identified as Inhotep by inscription, in this same style. Note further that the back pillar of our portrait contains an inventory number, L74.11.2, painted in red ink on its lower, right hand side, which was added to this portrait during the period when it was on public display as part of the Bastis Collection. Published: Bernard V. Bothmer, in B. VC. Bothmer, et al., Antiquities from the Collection of Christos G. Bastis (New York 1987), no. 23. - (PF.5603)

 

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