Head of a man - ROM2018_16311_1


Head of a man

Geography: Egypt
Date: c. 525-404 BC
Period: 27th (Persian) Dynasty, Late Period
4.7 x 5.4 x 4.1 cm
Object number: 909.80.606
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt
DescriptionThis bald male head almost certainly represents a priest. The face tilts slightly upward, suggesting that he may have been offering to a deity, or respectfully standing in the divine presence. Behind the head, a back pillar with a conical top reaches to the level of his large ears. The back pillar is both broken and very worn, with little left of the original inscription. The hieroglyph ‘nsw’ meaning ‘king’ can be read, suggesting that the text included the common offering formula, ‘a gift which the king gives.’ Such a text would suggest this statue came from a mortuary context.


The shape of the back pillar matches those of Wen-nufer, in a private collection, and Psamtik-sa-Neith of the Cairo Museum, both described by Bernard Bothmer in his Egyptian Sculpture of the Late Period. Dr. Bothmer dated Wen-nufer to a period between the latter part of the Persian domination to the Thirtieth Dynasty. Unfortunately, the ROM piece is broken at the neck, so that we cannot use the figure’s style of clothing or musculature (or lack thereof) to date the image.

For much of Egyptian history, the ideal image was one of youthful vigor, but in the Late Period, the image of the wise, serious, mature man of learning became common. Most such images have a benign smile, unlike this serious, rather stern countenance. When viewed from the side, the face takes on an air of disdain verging on arrogance – quite an unusual expression for an Egyptian statue at any period.

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