Head of a pharaoh

Head of a pharaoh (beard and one eye-ball missing; ear chipped; tip of crown broken off and replaced. Recent bruises on the left cheek and the crown.) Diorite. The right eye-ball is carved of fine marl, originally held in place by a copper hand, of which two small fragments (completely oxidized) remain.

Historical period(s)
Dynasty 5 or 6, Old Kingdom, ca. 2675-2130 BCE
Medium
Stone and copper
Dimensions
H x W x D: 58 x 17.7 x 26.8 cm (22 13/16 x 6 15/16 x 10 9/16 in)
Geography
Egypt
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1938.11
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Sculpture
Type

Figure: head

Keywords
Dynasty 5 (ca. 2500 - 2350 BCE), Dynasty 6 (ca. 2350 - 2170 BCE), Egypt, Old Kingdom (ca. 2675 - 2130 BCE), pharaoh, portrait, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

To 1938
Marguerite Mallon, Paris to 1938 [1]

From 1938
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Marguerite Mallon, Paris in 1938 [2]

Notes:

[1] Object file, undated folder sheet note.

[2] See note 1. Also see Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List file, Collections Management Office.

Previous Owner(s)

Marguerite Mallon died 1977
Paul Mallon 1884-1975

Description

Head of a pharaoh (beard and one eye-ball missing; ear chipped; tip of crown broken off and replaced. Recent bruises on the left cheek and the crown.) Diorite. The right eye-ball is carved of fine marl, originally held in place by a copper hand, of which two small fragments (completely oxidized) remain.

Label

Whose portrait is this? The headgear and moustache identify the figure as an Egyptian pharaoh; the tall crown with the rounded top, known as the White Crown, signified rule over southern Egypt. Broken at the neck, the head originally belonged to a full, probably standing, statue. In ancient Egypt, such statues were placed in tombs to serve as eternal images of the deceased. Sculptors sought to convey the pharaoh's divine character, while also experimenting with realistic portrayals of the human face and body.

Displayed in a museum case, this head resembles isolated portrait heads familiar in Western art--tempting us to think of it as a finished object. The original statue probably provided further clues to the figure's identity, perhaps including a hieroglyphic inscription naming the pharaoh. Details of the crown and face suggest that this statue was carved in Dynasty 5 or 6, the period following the building of the Great Pyramids at Giza (ca. 2500 B.C.E.). Few royal statues survive from these dynasties, making this head a rare example of Egyptian royal portraiture produced toward the end of the Old Kingdom (2675-2130 B.C.E.)

Published References
  • Herbert Riche. Beitrage zur Agyptischen Bauforschung und Altertumskunde: Das Sonnenheiligtum des Konigs Userkaf. vol. 2, no. 8, Wiesbaden. pls. 5-7.
  • Ethel E. Ewing. Our Widening World: A History of the World's People. Rand McNally Social Studies New York. cover, p. 250.
  • Georg Steindorff. A Royal Head from Ancient Egypt. vol. 1, no. 5 Washington, 1951. .
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 38-39.
  • John D. Cooney. Three Royal Sculptures. vol. 27 Paris. pp. 78-92.
  • Gaston Maspero. Art in Egypt. Ars Una London and New York, 1912-1930. p. 82.
  • Cyril Aldred. Egyptian Art in the Days of the Pharoahs, 3100 - 320 BC. World of Art New York. p. 92.
  • Ann C. Gunter. A Collector's Journey: Charles Lang Freer and Egypt. Washington and London, 2002. p. 143, fig. 5.13.
  • Arielle P. Kozloff. Weserkaf, Boy King of Dynasty V. vol. 69, no. 7 Cleveland, September 1982. p. 214.
  • Hourig Sourouzian. Standing Royal Colossi of the Middle Kingdom Reused by Ramesses II. vol. 44 Cairo. pp. 237, 240, fig. 2e.
  • Edna R. Russman. A Second Style in Egyptian Art in the Old Kingdom. vol. 51 Cairo, 1995. p. 276.
Collection Area(s)
Ancient Egyptian Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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