Statuette of Imhotep - ROM2016_15161_27


Statuette of Imhotep

Medium:Bronze, cast
Geography: Undetermined site, Egypt
Date: c. 664-332 BC
Period: 26th-30th Dynasty, Late Period
10.5 x 2.9 x 3.5 cm
Object number: 948.34.64
Credit Line: Gift of Sir Robert Mond
Not on view

Imhotep was the Chancellor of King Netjerkhet Djoser, and probably the architect of the Step Pyramid. He was credited in Classical times (though not in Pharaonic times) with being the inventor of building in stone.  His reputation as a sage had grown after his death though there are no known mentions of him during the Middle Kingdom, or in the New Kingdom until the time of Amenhotep III, when it seems to have been the custom for scribes to offer a drop of water to Imhotep as they began to write.  By the Late Period he was considered not only the patron of architects, but also of doctors.  In the latter capacity, he was able to grant a son to those who prayed to him.  He was always very popular at Sakkara, site of the Step Pyramid, and where his own tomb was probably situated.

Small bronze votive statuettes like this one were extremely common in the Late Period. He is always shown bald, or, possibly, wearing a leather skull cap, which seems to have been the symbol of an engineer or architect.  He is usually depicted as a slender man. In this image he wears a short kilt with a long, pleated apron hanging down over his knees, and elaborate broad collar. Unfortunately, since no contemporary image of him has survived, and his mummy has never been identified, these images are all imaginary likenesses of a scribe, bent over his papyrus.  We have no idea what he really looked like, but this small bronze gives him a sweet and gentle, almost boyish expression.

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