Egyptian Double-Sided Limestone Plaque Depicting a Falcon and a Head

SKU X.0322

300 BC to 200 BC


8.25″ (21.0cm) high





Gallery Location



Although traditionally called sculptors' models or trial pieces, some scholars have suggested that objects such as this one were in fact ex-votos. Otherwise, it is believed that such works functioned as aids for apprentices to learn the art of sculpting step by step before embarking upon royal commissions where one mistake could mean disaster. Similar plaques were unearthed in what are thought to have been artist workshops, thus their identification as models. It would be unlikely that a wall panel would have been carved on both sides. Today, these plaques give us unique insight into the creative process behind some of the most endearing and enduring artworks ever created by mankind.

A gorgeous rendition of a falcon standing to the right on a rectangular pedestal has been carved onto one side of this limestone sculptor’s model. The Ancient Egyptians believed that the pharaoh was the living incarnation of the sky god Horus, who was traditionally depicted as a falcon or a falcon-headed man. The intricacy of the carefully incised feathers, claws, and facial features is truly stunning. To the left of the falcon, a coiled Uraeus cobra has been depicted with an ankh dangling from its neck. The other side of this limestone plaque depicts a man facing right. The man wears a skullcap. He has a delicately rendered ear, a frontal almond- shaped eye, elegant nose, slightly smiling lips, and rounded cheeks.

Is it possible that Egyptian artists sought their inspiration not from nature but from such models? Considering the stylization of Egyptian art, it is clear that there was not much room for individual interpretation. When one realizes that many sculptors would have been responsible for decorating a single tomb or temple, stylistic unity becomes a foremost concern. While the artist who originally carved the first falcon or human head prototype was clearly inspired by careful observation of nature, these are idealized interpretations of a falcon worthy of symbolizing the mighty god Horus himself and a man whose beauty and refinement would be suitable for a representation of a pharaoh.

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