Old Kingdom Painted Wood Figure of an Official

SKU: MS.0054

Origin: Egypt
Circa: Old Kingdom, 6TH Dynasty, c. 2300 - 2181 BC
Dimensions: 12.5" Height x 2.75" Width x 5.25" Depth (31.7cms x 6.9cms x 13.3cms)
Medium: Painted Wood

The custom of placing small wooden statuettes in tombs for the deceased began in the Old Kingdom.  As was often the case, even on wooden statues as small as this one, the arms, the front of the left foot, the body, and the base were all made separately.  These features give our charming figure a deceptively doll like appearance and a certain verisimilitude as he stands inserted into a rectangular black plinth.  He is depicted striding with the left leg advanced, wearing a long white shendyt-kilt featuring a stiff triangular apron that is secured by a projecting knot below his navel. His separately-made long arms are pinned at the shoulders, with his left hand at his side, the palm inward, and his right hand resting on the edge of the apron.  His slender torso is pinched at the waist and preserves a deep red flesh tone, which carries throughout from head to toe.  The head is delicately modeled with black-and-white painted eyes, long tapering brows, a slender nose and thick lips.  He wears a short wig of echeloned curls which leave his ears exposed.  Overall this simple yet wonderfully balanced composition leaves us with a powerful impression that is at once sweet, solemn, and sublime.

with Dikran Kelekian (1868-1951), New York. Lester Wolfe (1897-1983) collection, New York. The Late Lester Wolfe; Sotheby's, New York, 1-2 March 1984, lot 109. The Late Lester Wolfe; Sotheby's, New York, 8-9 February 1985, lot 8. Anonymous sale; Pierre Bergé, Paris, 14 December 2009, lot 1

Surface wear and extensive paint loss throughout, large transverse fissure to the head, superficial cracks on the kilt, with chipping and losses to the base.

The custom of placing small wooden statues in the subterranean part of a tomb, which began in the late Old Kingdom, continued well into the Middle Kingdom in certain parts of Egypt. Some have been found inside coffins and statues of this type do not always bear the name of the person represented. Presumably this was not considered necessary because of their proximity to the mummy itself.

As in most wooden statues in ancient Egypt, where fine wood was scarce and expensive, the arms of this statue were made separately and pegged to the body, and the feet tenoned into a separate base. The hallmarks of late Old Kingdom style are all present here--long, slender torso and limbs with little indication of musculature, a somewhat overlarge head and very large eyes; a face that tapers to a narrow jaw, and a broad smiling mouth. The attenuated slenderness of the figure differs from both the taut muscularity of the earlier Old Kingdom, and the fleshy physique of the Middle Kingdom figures.

For the form of the kilt compare the wood figure of a man, said to be from Assiut, now in the Louvre, pp. 206-207 in E. Delange, Catalogue des statues égyptiennes du Moyen Empire, 2060-1560 avant J.-C., 1987.

Russman E.R., Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum, London, 2001, pp. 74–75, no. 8, and pp. 95-96, no. 24.


Old Kingdom

Old Kingdom Painted Wood Figure of an Official

Old Kingdom

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