User Menu

MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Egyptian Art

  • Head of a priest (The Boston Green...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Head of a priest (The Boston Green Head)

    380–332 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 10.5 x 8.5 x 11.3 cm (4 1/8 x 3 3/8 x 4 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Greywacke

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    04.1749

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian Late Period Gallery - 216 More Info

    Description

    This head of a priest, called the Boston Green Head, is the best portrait sculpture known from the Late Period. The face is wonderfully lifelike and individual. Light wavy lines indicate the furrows of his brow, and crow’s feet radiate from the outer corners of his eyes. The top of his nose has a pronounced bony ridge. Deep creases run from the edges of his nose to the corners of his mouth. Thin lips and a downturned mouth impart an expression of strength and determination. The slight wart on his left cheek is unique in Egyptian art and also introduces an element of asymmetry dear to the artists of the Late Period. The head has an illustrious provenance. In the spring of 1857, Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, a cousin of Emperor Napoleon III known as Prince Plonplon, announced his intention to visit Egypt. Archduke Maximilian of Austria had recently returned from a Nile excursion with a handsome collection of Egyptian art, and the prince vowed to surpass him. Said Pasha, the passionately pro-French viceroy of Egypt, was determined to please his imperial guest. He charged Auguste Mariette, famed discoverer of the Serapeum, the burial place of the sacred Apis bulls, with the task of building a collection. To save time, Mariette was to explore the proposed itinerary, dig for antiquities, and then rebury them, thus facilitating their rediscovery by the prince. In the end, Plonplon canceled his reservations, but nonetheless received a selection of choice objects — including the Green Head as a souvenir of the trip that never was. Yet there were happy consequences, for as a result of his efforts and through the prince’s influence, Mariette was appointed Egypt’s first director of antiquities, a milestone in the care and protection of Egypt’s monuments.

    Multimedia

  • Reliefs from burial chamber of...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Reliefs from burial chamber of Sobekmose

    1390–1352 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width (west wall): 172 x 218 cm (67 11/16 x 85 13/16 in.) Height x width (north wall): 172 x 316 cm (67 11/16 x 124 7/16 in)

    Medium

    Sandstone

    Classification

    Architectural elements, Relief

    Accession Number

    54.648

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian Funerary Arts Gallery (Mummies) - 109 More Info

    Description

    To realize his ambitious plans, Amenhotep III could count on a group of able officials. One of these was the treasurer Sobekmose, whose tomb was discovered in 1908 at el-Rizeiqat, south of Luxor. As was the case with most tombs, there was a chapel above ground and a burial chamber in the rock below. However, the walls of the burial chamber were lined with sandstone blocks, an unusual material, particularly at el-Rizeiqat, which is well north of where sandstone was quarried. The burial chamber normally would have been cut in the bedrock and, because of the poor and crumbly quality of the local limestone, lined with brick. Sobekmose, however, was in a good position to obtain stone from afar. As treasurer, he was responsible for mining and quarrying operations in general, and in addition, inscriptions in his burial chamber tell us that Sobekmose was involved in the construction of Luxor Temple, which was built entirely of sandstone. The scene illustrated here shows Sobekmose's funeral procession. This piece comes from the north wall of his burial chamber, so appropriately the procession would have moved west, in the direction of the cemetery. Leading the procession are two female mourners, beating their breasts in token of their grief. Labeled "the two kites," they impersonate Isis and Nephthys, sisters of the murdered Osiris. Following them are seven men grasping the towrope of a boat. They represent the gods who would drag the boat of the sun god Re across the sky by day and through the netherworld by night. But as Sobekmose's boat had to cross dry land, it was equipped with sledge runners. On deck is a shrine with a sloping roof, and inside, Anubis, the jackal-headed god of embalming, tends to the mummy of Sobekmose. Across the top of the scene is an excerpt from spell 130 of the Book of the Dead, "for enabling a spirit to embark on the boat of Re and his retinue": Open, sky. Open, earth. Open, west. Open, east. Open, shrines of Upper and Lower Egypt. Open, doors, open, gates, to Re that he may go forth from the horizon. Open to him, doors of the day bark, open to him, gates of the night bark. . . . Do not stand in the way of the Osiris, the treasurer Sobekmose.

    Multimedia

  • Talatat: River scene with royal...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Talatat: River scene with royal barges and tow boats

    1349–1336 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 23.4 x 53.1 x 3.6 cm (9 3/16 x 20 7/8 x 1 7/16 in.) - Lower Block

    Medium

    Painted Limestone

    Classification

    Architectural elements, Relief

    Accession Number

    63.260

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian New Kingdom Gallery - 210 More Info

    Description

    The Nile was Egypt's great artery, and river pageants formed an important part of ceremonial life. Depicted on these two adjoining blocks are two royal barges. The barge on the right may be identified as Nefertiti's by the two long steering oars that terminate in finials carved with her portrait. The queen wears the tall, flat-topped crown designed especially for her, surmounted by a sun disk and ostrich plumes. On the walls of the kiosk at the stern of the boat is a scene unprecedented in Egyptian art. There, beneath the radiant Aten, Nefertiti appears in the age-old pose traditionally reserved for kings, that of smiting a foreign enemy. Her enemy is female - another departure from tradition. The king himself appears in a complementary scene partially preserved on the barge on the left, where the victim is male. Not again until the Meroitic Period in Nubia, thirteen hundred years later, does the queen appear in this pose.

    Multimedia

  • Amphora with applied decoration...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Amphora with applied decoration and lid

    1350–1300 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x diameter of rim: 62 x 21 cm (24 7/16 x 8 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Pottery, Nile silt ware

    Classification

    Vessels

    Accession Number

    64.9

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian New Kingdom Gallery - 210 More Info

    Description

    In the late Eighteenth Dynasty a new type of painted pottery was introduced, characterized by the use of cobalt blue. Because many examples have been found at the residences of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten at Thebes and el-Amarna, it is sometimes known as palace ware. This jar is particularly large and ornate with painted, incised, and applied decoration. The volute handles, resembling those on later Greek vases, are unusual in Egyptian art and may be attributed to foreign influence. The jar has a distinct front and back and was probably intended primarily for display in a niche, although it also could have served as a wine jar on festive occasions. The lid is crowned with a recumbent calf while grapes hang below the rim. On the vessel's shoulder, a newborn ibex struggles to rise, its head raised up proudly to confront the viewer. Implicit in the young animals is the message of rejuvenation and rebirth.

    Multimedia

  • Relief of Akhenaten as a sphinx

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Relief of Akhenaten as a sphinx

    1349–1336 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 51 x 105.5 x 5.2 cm (20 1/16 x 41 9/16 x 2 1/16 in.)

    Medium

    Limestone

    Classification

    Architectural elements, Relief

    Accession Number

    64.1944

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian New Kingdom Gallery - 210 More Info

    Description

    Although Akhenaten's religious reforms purged Egyptian art of many of its most familiar manifestations, the king remained fond of the sphinx and often had himself depicted as that fantastic creature - part man, part lion. In Old Kingdom times, the Great Sphinx at Giza probably stood for the king presenting offerings to the sun god, while in the Eighteenth Dynasty the mighty monument was reinterpreted as the sun god Horemakhet, or Horus in the Horizon. Its impeccable solar credentials therefore made the sphinx an appropriate image for Akhenaten at el-Amarna, the city he called Akhetaten, "Horizon of the Sun Disk." This relief was one of a pair flanking a temple doorway. The sphinx on it rests on a plinth, suggesting that it represents a statue. A pair of such reliefs flanking the doorway of a small temple would have evoked the grand avenues of sphinxes that traditionally led up to the entrance pylons of larger Egyptian sanctuaries. Here the sphinx is equipped with human arms and hands to enable him to make offerings to his god, the sun disk, Aten, who appears at the upper left. He wears the uraeus of kingship while behind him (to the left) are two cartouches containing his lengthy official name. The sun's life-giving rays end in so many hands, some holding ankh-signs. Below are three offering stands. To the right, Akhenaten as sphinx raises one hand in adoration while in the other he holds a neb sign, a basket signifying lordship, holding Aten's cartouches. These same cartouches appear a third time in the upper right where they are joined with the cartouches of Akhenaten and Queen Nefertiti, who is thus present in name if not in image. The rest of the inscription describes the "great, living Aten" as "dwelling in the Sunshade temple [called] Creator of the Horizon [which is] in Akhetaten." The temple named here, yet to be located, must be the one for which this block was carved. Akhenaten's religious revolution was accompanied by a change in the way pharaoh was depicted, showing a marked departure from the idealized images favored by his predecessors. Even though the king's face has been sadly hacked away, one can still discern his characteristic slanted eyes, long nose,hollow cheeks, drooping lower lip, and pendulous chin.

    Multimedia

  • Talatat: River scene with royal...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Talatat: River scene with royal barges and tow boats

    1349–1336 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 23.9 x 54 x 3.5 cm (9 7/16 x 21 1/4 x 1 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Painted limestone

    Classification

    Architectural elements, Relief

    Accession Number

    64.521

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian New Kingdom Gallery - 210 More Info

    Description

    The Nile was Egypt's great artery, and river pageants formed an important part of ceremonial life. Depicted on these two adjoining blocks are two royal barges. The barge on the right may be identified as Nefertiti's by the two long steering oars that terminate in finials carved with her portrait. The queen wears the tall, flat-topped crown designed especially for her, surmounted by a sun disk and ostrich plumes. On the walls of the kiosk at the stern of the boat is a scene unprecedented in Egyptian art. There, beneath the radiant Aten, Nefertiti appears in the age-old pose traditionally reserved for kings, that of smiting a foreign enemy. Her enemy is female - another departure from tradition. The king himself appears in a complementary scene partially preserved on the barge on the left, where the victim is male. Not again until the Meroitic Period in Nubia, thirteen hundred years later, does the queen appear in this pose.

    Multimedia

  • Portrait bust of a statesman or...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Portrait bust of a statesman or philosopher

    about A.D. 110–130

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 48 x 25 cm (18 7/8 x 9 13/16 in.)

    Medium

    Marble from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    67.1032

    Collections
    The Ancient World More Info

    Description

    The herm presents a free rendering, made in the Hellenistic or Graeco-Roman periods, after a bronze ideal portrait of the fifth or fourth century B.C. The end of the nose is damaged, and there are abrasions on the smooth surfaces and in the hair. The arms of the herm are restored. The top center of the head is hollowed out and contains a large lead filling, seemingly to attach a helmet made of bronze. Scientific Analysis: Harvard Lab No. HI763: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.96 / delta18O -7.68, Attribution - Pentelikon, Justification - White, fine grained marble.

    Multimedia

  • Blue-painted jar

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Blue-painted jar

    1390–1292 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height: 30 cm (11 13/16 in.)

    Medium

    Pottery

    Classification

    Vessels

    Accession Number

    69.1331

    Collections
    The Ancient World More Info

    Description

    Pyriform jar of Nile silt clay with short neck, wide mouth, and rounded base. Decorated with horizontal bands of lotus petals in light blue paint, highlighted with red and black.

    Multimedia

  • Portrait bust of a statesman or...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Portrait bust of a statesman or philosopher

    about A.D. 110–130

    Dimensions

    Height x width: 48 x 25 cm (18 7/8 x 9 13/16 in.)

    Medium

    Marble from Mt. Pentelikon near Athens

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    67.1032

    Collections
    The Ancient World More Info

    Description

    The herm presents a free rendering, made in the Hellenistic or Graeco-Roman periods, after a bronze ideal portrait of the fifth or fourth century B.C. The end of the nose is damaged, and there are abrasions on the smooth surfaces and in the hair. The arms of the herm are restored. The top center of the head is hollowed out and contains a large lead filling, seemingly to attach a helmet made of bronze. Scientific Analysis: Harvard Lab No. HI763: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.96 / delta18O -7.68, Attribution - Pentelikon, Justification - White, fine grained marble.

    Multimedia

  • Seated statuette of an official

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Seated statuette of an official

    2140–1926 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 28 x 12.5 x 19.5 cm (11 x 4 15/16 x 7 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Travertine (Egyptian alabaster)

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1971.20

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Calderwood Middle Kingdom Funerary Arts - 119 More Info

    Description

    This enigmatic travertine statuette of an unidentified official differs strikingly in both form and material from most three-dimensional representations of humans in Egyptian art. The figure, seated on a cube-shaped seat without a back, is highly abstract, with barely articulated limbs and a short, thick neck. His head appears to be shaven, and the line of the kilt is hardly apparent. The eyes were originally inlaid with stone set in a copper frame, a technique that would have made the face significantly more lifelike. The lack of eyes, along with damage to the nose, exaggerates the figure's disturbing, almost ghostlike appearance. The unusual appearance of the statuette may be explained by its function. It is one of a small group of travertine funerary figures so similar in style that they are probably products of the same workshop. Because one of them was found in the cabin of a wooden model funerary ship in a rock-cut tomb in Middle Egypt, it is thought that all of them are likely to have portrayed the tomb owner sailing on his journey to the afterlife. Scholars have suggested that the men who carved these figures were sculptors who normally manufactured stone vessels and wooden models, and that they were only beginning to experiment with carving the human figure in stone.

    Multimedia

  • Block statue of Djedptahiufankh

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Block statue of Djedptahiufankh

    760–660 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 26.7 x 12.5 x 15 cm (10 1/2 x 4 15/16 x 5 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Quartzite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1971.21

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian Late Period Gallery - 216 More Info

    Description

    Block statuette showing Djedptahiufankh seated on the ground with his knees drawn up in front of him and his body completely enveloped by a cloak with only the hands exposed. The proper left hand is flat across his knee, while the proper right hand holds a lettuce, a symbol of rebirth and fertility. Djedptahiufankh wears a shoulder length wig and has a bat amulet suspended around his neck. Horizontal lines of hieroglyphic text on his garment include an offering formula, with the name, titles and parentage of Djedptahiufankh and the information that the statue was dedicated by his son, Ankhpakhered.

    Multimedia

  • Relief of Ptolemy I offering to...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Relief of Ptolemy I offering to Hathor

    305–282 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Overall: 36 x 128 x 18cm (14 3/16 x 50 3/8 x 7 1/16in.) Other (Height x length x D): 128cm (50 3/8in.) Block (painted wooden base ): 149.5 x 136.2 x 115.6 cm (58 7/8 x 53 5/8 x 45 1/2 in.) Case (plex-bonnet): 38.7 x 136.2 x 24.1 cm (15 1/4 x 53 5/8 x 9 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Limestone

    Classification

    Architectural elements, Doors, jambs, lintels

    Accession Number

    89.559

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian Late Period Gallery - 216 More Info

    Description

    Ptolemy I on right with raised hands holding a bowl of flaming incense; Hathor on left holding a papyrus-scepter; hieroglyphs on each side and top. [Alternate Text:] The founder of the Ptolemaic Dynasty is shown offering incense to the goddess in a small brazier complete with two incense pellets and a wisp of smoke. Hathor holds a wand in the shape of a papyrus stalk. The word for papyrus also meant 'green', which was therefore written with a hieroglyph representing a papyrus plant. Thus, in the incomplete inscription behind the goddess's head, the papyrus hieroglyph (crossed by a cobra, used as a phonetic sign) appears as part of the writing of 'great-green', the Egyptian name for the Mediterranean Sea. Early Ptolemaic art continued the style developed in the preceding 29th and 30th Dynasties, in its soft modeling of the fleshy bodies, the elegant precision of details, and the somewhat mannered refinement of such features as the long curving fingers.

    Multimedia

  • Marsh bowl

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Bowl with fish and lotuses

    1400 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x diameter: 3.8 x 15.7 cm (1 1/2 x 6 3/16 in.)

    Medium

    Bichrome faience

    Classification

    Vessels

    Accession Number

    1977.619

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian New Kingdom Gallery - 210 More Info

    Description

    The marsh scene painted on the interior surface of this shallow bowl is perfectly adapted to its shape. The bowl is a pool: six curving stems with lotus buds radiate pinwheel-like from a central square, with four tilapia passing over and partly overlapping them to create a sense of depth. Three of the fish have other lotus stems issuing forth from their mouths; these also terminate in buds that float up to the vessel's rim to join the others. In ancient Egyptian art no motif is too modest to be innocent of ritual symbolism. And so it is with this shallow bowl, for in Egyptian mythology, the marsh was the seething hotbed of creation. The blue lotus, whose flowers open from sunrise through midday and close at night, was closely associated with the sun's rebirth each morning. The tilapia was a symbol of fertility and rebirth since Predynastic times, based no doubt on the creature's remarkable habit of taking its newly hatched young into its mouth for shelter. The young fish appear to emerge from the parent's mouth as though newly born, a phenomenon the Egyptians interpreted as spontaneous generation. This recalled the god Atum, whose own act of spontaneous generation initiated the creation of the Egyptian universe. The waters in which the fish swim are those of the boundless, life-giving Nun, the primeval ocean, while the central square motif is the primeval mound that rose above these waters. Such marsh bowls were not made as tableware. Many pottery fragments with marshland imagery have been found at temples and shrines dedicated to the goddess Hathor, who was associated with sex, love, motherhood, fertility, and rebirth. Less frequently, the bowls have been found as tomb gifts. Given the intact condition of this bowl, it probably came from a tomb, where objects often survived best. The tombs from which such marsh bowls have been excavated belonged to nonroyal and mostly female persons. In a burial context, the fertility imagery on the bowls was meant to facilitate the tomb owner's rebirth.

    Multimedia

  • Mummy mask

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Mummy mask

    2140–1926 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height: 60 cm (23 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Cartonnage

    Classification

    Tomb equipment, Masks

    Accession Number

    1987.54

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Calderwood Middle Kingdom Funerary Arts - 119 More Info

    Description

    While Egyptians of the Old Kingdom had attempted to add lifelike features to the outer wrappings of mummies, masks with idealized images of the deceased, designed to cover the head and shoulders of the mummy, were introduced during the First Intermediate Period. By the early Middle Kingdom they became a standard part of the Egyptian burial assemblage, and they would continue to be used for two thousand years, into the Roman era. This mask, like many funerary masks of the period, was made of cartonnage. It was painted to imitate a mask that was covered with gold and inlaid with semiprecious stone, materials that would have been used for the masks of higher officials who could better afford them. The long, plain front panel was designed to be hidden under the outermost layer of mummy wrappings, with only the head revealed. Due to its imperishability, gold was believed to be the color of the gods' flesh. By using it for the skin of the deceased, the artist therefore indicated that he or she had entered the realm of the divine. Likewise, the eyebrows and beard were painted blue because the hair and beards of deities were believed to be of lapis lazuli. Although men in Egyptian art were typically portrayed as clean shaven or wearing a short goatee, moustaches and fuller beards such as those depicted here seem to have been fashionable on funerary masks for a brief period in the early Middle Kingdom. The artist of this mask paid careful attention to details, such as the stippling of the beard and eyebrows and the meticulous rendering of the eyes' canthi, and thus gave the face a lifelike and expressive quality despite the symbolic coloring.

    Multimedia

  • Statue of a queen

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Statue of a queen

    300–200 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 75.5 x 19 x 24 cm (29 3/4 x 7 1/2 x 9 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Stone

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1990.314

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian Late Period Gallery - 216 More Info

    Description

    Statues of women were rare in Egyptian art during the four centuries preceding Alexander the Great’s conquest of Egypt, but they reappeared in plenty with the Ptolemaic Dynasty. That they did so had everything to do with the Macedonians themselves. Philip II of Macedon began the practice of setting up statues of himself and his family at important Greek shrines and other public places. Macedonian tradition thus neatly harmonized with that of Egypt, where centuries before Egyptian queens like Queen Tiye had appeared as goddesses. Who is this voluptuous creature? Is she queen or goddess? She strides forward in the traditional attitude with left foot advanced and arms at her sides. Her left fist is clenched around a folded bolt of cloth, and in her right hand she holds an ankh-sign. In true Egyptian style her ankle-length costume hides nothing of her anatomy, and the traditional form-fitting sheath has been fashionably updated to include a shawl, the ends of which are tied in a knot between her breasts. “Venus rings” (rolls of fat) adorn her neck. Her head is missing but the lack of any trace of a long wig on her shoulders indicates that she wore her hair short, either in an Egyptian bob or a Grecian bun. Without identifying inscriptions, it is not always possible to distinguish a queen from a goddess. Ptolemaic queens were deified in their own right, and their statues were set up in all the temples, where they resided as sunnaoi theoi, or temple-sharing gods. Living queens also served as priestesses in the cults of deified dead queens. Queens even appear making offerings to their deified selves. The knotted garment worn by this figure was in Roman times associated with the goddess Isis, but the Romans took the robe from the Ptolemaic queens who identified themselves with Isis. Cleopatra VII, for example, called herself “Nea Isis,” the new Isis.

    Multimedia

  • Bust of a boy with a braided...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Bust of a boy with a braided sidelock

    1st century B.C. or 1st century A.D.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 17.1 x 11.6 x 10.9 cm (6 3/4 x 4 9/16 x 4 5/16 in.)

    Medium

    Marble, probably from the Greek Island of Paros; base is broccatello from near Tortosa, Spain

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    2001.262

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian Late Period Gallery - 216 More Info

    Description

    Bust of a boy wearing the hair on the right side of his head long and braided into a sidelock. Mounted on a colored marble base.

    Multimedia

  • Head of a female sphinx

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Head of a female sphinx

    1897–1878 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Width x height x depth: 24 x 27 x 22 cm (9 7/16 x 10 5/8 x 8 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Quartzite

    Classification

    Sculpture
    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian Colossal Gallery (Sculpture) - 209 More Info

    Description

    This nearly life-sized head of a royal woman comes from a sphinx. The ancient Egyptians viewed sphinxes both as symbols of royal authority and as manifestations of the sun god. Accordingly, both male and female members of the royal family had themselves portrayed as sphinxes. Female sphinxes, however, are exceedingly rare before Dynasty 12, and males remained more common throughout the Middle Kingdom. Carved of glistening quartzite, this woman is identified as a queen or princess by the royal uraeus cobra on the brow of her wig. While the long, striated wig, large ears, and straight mouth are typical Middle Kingdom features, the modeling of the face is remarkable. When compared to the idealized youthfulness of Lady Sennuwy, this face is decidedly more lifelike. The careful rendering of the full cheeks, the high cheekbones, the hollows beside the nose, and the lines around the mouth and chin convey a real sense of individuality and maturity often lacking in representations of Egyptian women, leading some scholars to suggest that the statue approaches true portraiture, rare in Egyptian art in any period. While the original context is unknown, the statue almost certainly stood in a temple. It is reported to have come from a site near ancient Heliopolis, the cult center of the sun god and therefore a particularly appropriate setting for a sphinx.

    Multimedia

  • Dignitary holding a statue of...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Dignitary holding a statue of Osiris

    1295–1186 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 53.5 x 17 x 7 cm (21 1/16 x 6 11/16 x 2 3/4 in.) Modern wood mount (height x width x depth): 3 x 20 x 10 cm (1 3/16 x 7 7/8 x 3 15/16 in.)

    Medium

    Wood with stone inlays

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    2006.1892

    Collections
    The Ancient World More Info

    Description

    Beautifully carved, highly detailed wood sculpture of a nobleman, probably a priest.

    Multimedia

  • Bust of a pharaoh

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Bust of a pharaoh

    304–246 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 21.6 x 17.1 x 10.8 cm (8 1/2 x 6 3/4 x 4 1/4 in.) Lender accessory: 2.5 x 18.5 x 9.5 cm (1 x 7 5/16 x 3 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Limestone

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    2007.345

    Collections
    The Ancient World More Info

    Description

    This head is a sculptor's model of the Ptolemaic Period. It would have guided artists on how the official image of the king, probably of Ptolemy I or II should be rendered. Typical of the period, and particularly these models, are the idealizing features consisting of precisely carved, straight brows, almond-shaped eyes, and a sweet smile. The king wears a royal headscarf known as a nemes, pharaonic iconography in use for the past 2,500 years. On his brow is a rectangle with vertical and horizontal lines incised on it, an unfinished representation of a uraeus, or divine cobra. Other perpendicular incised lines that would have aided in the reproduction of the head may be found on the top, proper right side, bottom, and flat back.

    Multimedia

  • Head of a pharaoh

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Head of a pharaoh

    3rd–2nd century B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 24.1 x 19.1 x 21.6 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 8 1/2 in.) Mount: 22.9 x 12.7 x 12.7 cm (9 x 5 x 5 in.)

    Medium

    Plaster

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    2007.347

    Collections
    The Ancient World More Info

    Description

    Life-size sculptures that do not represent complete figures are exceedingly rare in Egyptian art, and the function of those that do exist is unknown. This head is one of that rare group and it probably represents King Ptolemy II, the first of the great Greek ruling generals of Egypt. Also rare is the fact that it is made of plaster. The king wears a nemes headdress, the lappet of which is preserved only on the proper left side. The raised upper band of the nemes runs parallel to the forehead. In the center is a slight protrusion which marks the uraeus. The sculpture terminates in a flat surface above the band of the nemes, and that area is marked by deep parallel grooves into which might have slotted an additional headdress. The bottom of the sculpture takes the shape of a rough curve which encompasses the base of the neck and the edge of the lappet. The back is concave, and what look like finger marks run horizontally across the surface. The head was probably made in a clay mould, and the marks would have resulted from the pressing of the slightly hardened plaster into the mould.

    Multimedia

  • Black-topped jar with incised...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Black-topped jar with incised figure of a ram

    Nagada I, 3850–3650 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x diameter: 23.2 x 11.5 cm (9 1/8 x 4 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Pottery (Nile silt clay)

    Classification

    Vessels

    Accession Number

    99.710

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Test Label More Info

    Description

    The finest pottery wares to have survived from the Pre-dynastic Period were not utilitarian items designed for use in the home, but rather seem to have been made specifically as burial offerings for an emerging elite class. The beauty and technical quality of the finest among them would remain unsurpassed in the long history of Egyptian ceramics. "Black-topped ware" is handmade of red clay and burnished to a high sheen by rubbing with a smooth stone or pebble. Standing the vessel upside-down in ashes in the kiln during the firing process formed the distinctive black rim. The tall beaker shown here bears an unusual incised image of a ram. The impressionistic rendering of the animal, with its massive curved horns, successfully conveys a sense of movement and grace, foreshadowing the superb representations of animals that would appear later in Egyptian art.

    Multimedia

  • Coffin of Menqabu

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Coffin of Menqabu

    2140–2040 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Length x width x height: 195 x 42 x 57 cm (76 3/4 x 16 9/16 x 22 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Painted wood

    Classification

    Tomb equipment, Coffins, Sarcophagi

    Accession Number

    03.1631a-b

    Collections
    The Ancient World More Info

    Description

    Built to house the mummified body of an official named Menqabu, this beautifully preserved rectangular coffin features the remarkably simple but visually appealing decorative scheme that emerged during the First Intermediate Period. A single line of text around the rim of the box and another down the center of the lid contain traditional offering prayers requesting a good burial and eternal sustenance from the king and the funerary deities Anubis and Osiris. The brightly painted hieroglyphs display the crude but lively and experimental style of the First Intermediate Period, and each sign has become a vivid expression of the artist's imagination. A feature peculiar to this period in Egyptian art is the "killing" of the glyphs portraying dangerous animals, such as the horned viper, which has been decapitated wherever it occurs in the text. Evidently, the Egyptians feared the presence of such potentially hostile symbols in close proximity to the body. On the left side of the coffin, at the end where the head of the deceased would have rested, a white panel contains a pair of sacred wadjet eyes. Representing the eyes of the falcon god Horus, they served as protective symbols to ward off perils on the dangerous journey to the underworld. Because the body would have been placed on its side, with the face of the mummy immediately behind the panel, the eyes also allowed Menqabu to "look" out into the tomb. He would have faced east, the direction of the rising sun, because Egyptians believed that just as the sun god arose from the eastern horizon, the deceased would be reborn in the afterlife. The remainder of the coffin is painted a dark reddish brown to simulate imported cedar wood, which only the elite could afford.

    Multimedia

  • King Menkaura, the goddess Hathor...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    King Menkaura, the goddess Hathor, and the deified Hare nome

    2490–2472 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Width x height x depth x weight: 43.5 x 84.5 x 49 cm, 187.8 kg (17 1/8 x 33 1/4 x 19 5/16 in., 414.02 lb.) Mount (Steel pallet sits on wooden reinforced pedestal/4-steel clips): 10.2 x 62.5 x 64.8 cm (4 x 24 5/8 x 25 1/2 in.) Case (wooden pedestal): 100.3 x 68.6 x 71.1 cm (39 1/2 x 27 x 28 in.) Block (Plex-bonnet): 105.4 x 64.5 x 67 cm (41 1/2 x 25 3/8 x 26 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Greywacke

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    09.200

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    G.M. Lane Gallery (Egyptian Old Kingdom) - 207 More Info

    Description

    The sublime beauty of this triple statue masks the sophistication of its composition. The central and largest figure is Hathor, an important goddess throughout Egyptian history associated with fertility, creation, birth, and rebirth. She was the king's divine mother and protector. Here, she wears a headdress of cow's horns and a sun disk, but otherwise her appearance is that of a human female, and she is depicted with the same hairstyle and garment as her earthly counterparts. Hathor embraces King Menkaura, who is standing to her left. He wears a crown symbolic of Upper Egypt (the Nile Valley) and a wraparound kilt whose sharp pleats conform to the outline of his body. In his right hand he holds a mace, a weapon frequently wielded by kings in relief, but until now not reproduced in stone sculpture. Here, artists solved the problem of carving its thin and fragile shaft in the round by resting it on Hathor's throne. In Menkaura's left hand is a short implement with a concave end; it is generally interpreted as a case for documents. Size corresponds to hierarchical position in Egyptian art, and while visually Hathor and Menkaura appear to be the same height, the seated goddess is significantly larger in scale. Like Menkaura's queen in the pair statue (pp. 86-87), Hathor's embrace is one of association, not affection, and all three figures gaze impassively into a distant horizon. The third and smallest figure is a goddess of lesser importance, associated not with the entire country, but with a single district in Upper Egypt known as the Hare nome. It is symbolized by the rabbit standard she wears on her head. An artist has cleverly merged the ankh sign she carries in her left hand with Hathor's throne. The Hare nome goddess, like Hathor and Menkaura, exhibits a body proportioned according to the Old Kingdom ideal of beauty and is modeled with the restrained elegance that makes this period a highpoint of Egyptian art. The inscription on the sculpture's base clarifies the meaning of this complicated piece: "The Horus (Kakhet), King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Menkaura, beloved of Hathor, Mistress of the Sycamore. Recitation: I have given you all good things, all offerings, and all provisions in Upper Egypt, forever." It signifies that all the material goods produced in the Hare nome will be presented to the king to sustain him in perpetuity. One theory suggests that eight such triads, each featuring the king and Hathor with one of the other nome deities, were set up in Menkaura's Valley Temple.

    Multimedia

  • Statuette of Ptahneferti as a...

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Statuette of Ptahneferti as a young boy

    2465–2323 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height: 18 cm (7 1/16 in.)

    Medium

    Painted limestone

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    06.1881

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    105B More Info

    Description

    In Egyptian art, strict rules dictated not only how adult figures should be represented, but children as well. In sculpture, boys and girls alike were shown naked before they reached puberty, touching their right index finger to their lips. Particularly in the Old Kingdom, they have their hair braided in a single lock on the right side. The boy shown here is Ptahneferty, according to the inscription on the front of his right foot. Such a statue of a child alone is rare - more frequently, children were represented with their parents. It is possible, however, that Ptahneferty was already an adult when this sculpture was commissioned. Not only is he named, but his title, "craftsman," is indicated as well. Although Ptahneferty's body displays the pudginess typical of depictions of children of the time, his stance, with his left foot forward and left arm held rigidly at his side, is that of an adult man. The paint, so marvelously preserved, also shows him with the red skin color of adult males. The sculpture's base and back pillar are painted black, making those areas recede and calling attention to the figure itself. The face is emotionless, with large eyes, straight mouth, and pug nose. Like sculptures of adults in Egypt, what is depicted here represents an ideal rather than reality. In an Egyptian winter, it would have been far too cold for a child to go without clothes, and child-size garments preserved in tombs show that they did not. Like children everywhere, they played with toys, were protected by amulets, and assisted their parents.

    Multimedia

  • Portrait mummy of a youth

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Portrait mummy of a youth

    about A.D. 50

    Dimensions

    Height: 113 cm (44 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Encaustic (colored wax) on wood; linen; and human remains

    Classification

    Tomb equipment, Mummy Trappings

    Accession Number

    11.2892

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian Funerary Arts Gallery (Mummies) - 109 More Info

    Description

    An innovation of Roman times was the beautiful lifelike portrait painted onto a wooden panel to be inserted into the mummy bandages. Such portrait mummies are contemporary with cartonnage mummy masks but present a very different appearance. Because the majority have been found in the cemeteries of the Faiyum, an oasis west of the Nile, about 80.5 kilometers (50 miles) south of Cairo, they are traditionally called “Faiyum portraits.” But finds at other sites indicate that the practice was widespread. Portrait mummies were neither placed in coffins, nor were they even buried right away. Classical authors comment on the Egyptian practice of dining with the dead, and it appears that the wrapped mummies of relatives were kept in the home as cult objects for a generation or two before being consigned to burial. Much attention has focused on the funerary panels as the only painted portraits in the Greco-Roman style to have survived from antiquity, especially as so many have been detached from their mummies and displayed independently. However, it is important not to lose sight of the mummy for which each funerary portrait was specifically made and of which it was an integral part. The complete ensemble consists of three parts: portrait, mummy, and footcase. The portrait presents a moving, if not haunting, and lifelike image of the deceased. The subject here is a young boy with round, dark eyes, and dark hair combed close to the scalp. A wisp of hair behind the right earmay represent a sidelock of youth. He wears a white tunic and a gold amulet case suspended by a black cord. The gilded lips are rare. The gold may symbolize the deceased’s transformation into an akh, or blessed spirit, a being of light. The mummy has been bound lengthwise in a rhomboid or diamond pattern approximately three layers deep with gilded stucco studs in the center of each rhombus. Bands of linen across the chest secure a strip of cartonnage with gilded studs. Plain linen bands, perhaps once holding a similar strip, gird the ankles. The wrapped feet are enclosed in a cartonnage footcase. The upper part of the footcase is modeled in relief with the sandaled feet of the deceased painted pink with gilded toes and resting on a checkered floor. The soles of the sandals on the underside of the footcase (not visible in the photograph) are painted with figures of bound prisoners, a motif borrowed from the royal sphere, and symbolic of the deceased’s victory over opposing forces in the underworld. Although the art of bandaging reached new heights in the Roman Period, mummification itself lagged behind, and the fancy wrapping conceals shoddy preservation of the body. Even x-rays have not allowed experts to determine whether the occupant was a boy or girl. However, the lack of any specifically female clothing or adornment may indicate that the coffin was intended for a boy.

    Multimedia

  • Comb

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Comb

    Naqada I (Amratian) 3850–3650 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x width x depth: 14 x 3.7 x 14.1 cm (5 1/2 x 1 7/16 x 5 9/16 in.)

    Medium

    Ivory

    Classification

    Jewelry / Adornment, Hair Ornaments

    Accession Number

    13.3509

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Test Label More Info

    Description

    Some of the earliest three-dimensional representations of humans and animals in Egyptian art appear on small, utilitarian items such as combs, pins, and cosmetic implements. Bone and ivory combs like this one, which features the head of a gazelle were probably worn as hair ornaments. They occur from the end of the Neolithic era, and reached the height of their popularity in the earliest phases of the Predynastic Period.

    Multimedia

  • Statue of Lady Sennuwy

    Slide Notes

    Details

    Statue of Lady Sennuwy

    1971–1926 B.C.

    Dimensions

    Framed (The object sits on epoxy bed /structural steel pallet tubing): 21.6 x 62.2 x 116.2 cm (8 1/2 x 24 1/2 x 45 3/4 in.) Mount (Steel channel base with cross bracing 3" x 3/16"): 30.5 x 62.2 x 116.2 cm (12 x 24 1/2 x 45 3/4 in.) Overall (steel pallet and object, weighed): 170.2 x 116.2 x 47 cm, 1224.71 kg (67 x 45 3/4 x 18 1/2 in., 2700 lb.) Weight (Object and steel pallet with attaching steel base, estimate): 1319.97 kg (2910 lb.) Weight (Object (calculated by subtracting estimate of pallet weight)): 1079.56 kg (2380 lb.)

    Medium

    Granodiorite

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    14.720

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Egyptian Colossal Gallery (Sculpture) - 209 More Info

    Description

    Egyptian officials of the Middle Kingdom continued the practice of equipping their tombs with statues to house the ka of the tomb owner and to provide a focal point for the offering cult. Highly ranked officials also dedicated statues of themselves at sanctuaries of gods and deified ancestors. Following the experimental and idiosyncratic interlude of the First Intermediate Period, sculptors once again produced large-scale stone statues, returning to the basic forms and poses established in the Old Kingdom. This elegant seated statue of Lady Sennuwy of Asyut is one of the most superbly carved and beautifully proportioned sculptures from the Middle Kingdom. The unknown artist shaped and polished the hard, gray granodiorite with extraordinary skill, suggesting that he was trained in a royal workshop. He has portrayed Sennuwy as a slender, graceful young woman, dressed in the tightly fitting sheath dress that was fashionable at the time. The carefully modeled planes of the face, framed by a long, thick, striated wig, convey a serene confidence and timeless beauty. Such idealized, youthful, and placid images characterize the first half of Dynasty 12 and hark back to the art of the Old Kingdom. Sennuwy sits poised and attentive on a solid, blocklike chair, with her left hand resting flat on her lap and her right hand holding a lotus blossom, a symbol of rebirth. Inscribed on the sides and base of the chair are hieroglyphic texts declaring that she is venerated in the presence of Osiris and other deities associated with the afterlife. Sennuwy was the wife of a powerful provincial governor, Djefaihapi of Asyut, whose rock-cut tomb is the largest nonroyal tomb of the Middle Kingdom. Clearly, the couple had access to the finest artists and materials available. It is likely that this statue, along with a similar sculpture of Djefaihapi, was originally set up in the tomb chapel, although they may also have stood in a sanctuary. Both statues were discovered, however, far to the south at Kerma in Nubia, where they had been buried in the royal tumulus of a Nubian king who lived generations after Sennuwy's death. They must have been removed from their original location and exported to Nubia some three hundred years after they were made. Exactly how, why, and when these pieces of sculpture, along with numerous other Egyptian statues, found their way to Kerma, however, is still unknown.

    Multimedia