New Kingdom Wooden Sculpture of a Standing Man

SKU X.0565

1570 BC to 1070 BC


19″ (48.3cm) high





Gallery Location

S Korea


Wooden sculptures from Ancient Egypt are exceedingly rare, since fine wood was scarce and expensive, and preservation is often problematic despite the desiccated environments of stone-cut tombs. On the majority of New Kingdom wooden sculptures to have been recovered, the torso/legs and arms were carved separately, the arms then being pegged into place. Unusually, the current piece has been carved from a single block of wood. He stands in the distinguished posture characteristic of males in this period, legs together, the right arm extended by the side with closed fist (pierced to hold a weapon, or perhaps an agricultural implement), the left flexed at the elbow and extended forwards, palm-up. The figure is naked except for a knee-length skirt-like loincloth; the anatomical details are perfectly rendered in low relief, with well-defined pectoral and biceps muscles. The face is a mask of placidity, the cheeks, eyes, mouth, eyes, eyebrows and ears all picked out in clear detail. The top of the head is angularly flattened, suggesting that the figure originally wore a wig or headdress made from some other material that fit over the wooden form: probable candidates include bone and ivory. As with all of the rest of the sculpture, there is little radicalism in terms of sculptural interpretation, as was briefly the case under the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten (the husband of Nefertiti, and father allegedly of Tutankhamun). The only tangible effect of his reign was a subsequent slight increase in naturalism and rather less tendency towards stylised formulaic reiteration. There is no hieroglyphic inscription on the figure, so it is impossible to ascertain the identity of the individual portrayed. However, the size of the figure, the rarity of the material and the care with which it has been carved seem to suggest that it was an individual of some importance. The fact that the ears project to such an extent, and have no wear means that the missing headpiece was high and narrow. It is therefore possible even likely that the figure depicts a member of the royal family or a pharaoh. This is a true masterwork of ancient Egyptian art, the value of which is enhanced by its rarity and excellent preservation.

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