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Bronze seated figure of Amun

 

Height: 66.000 cm

EA 60093

Enlightenment: Art

    Bronze seated figure of Amun

    Egypt, Roman Period, 1st century AD

    Animal worship and the worship of animal-headed gods were prominent in classical accounts of ancient Egypt. Collectors in the eighteenth century considered statues like this figure of Amun as examples of the strange barbarous nature of Egyptian religion. The collector Richard Payne Knight (1750-1824), for instance, described these 'monstrous gods of Egypt' as 'the mystic symbols of a gloomy creed'.

    Payne Knight described the figure in his book, Specimens of Ancient Sculpture (1809), alongside other examples from his and other collections. Like other writers and collectors of the period, he considered Egyptian art to be more sophisticated than Persian art in style and to be a direct forerunner of the Etruscan art of Italy. But he maintained his belief in 'the prodigious superiority of the Greeks over very other nation, in all works of real taste'.

    The figure was presumably a votive offering in an Egyptian temple. Payne Knight acquired it in the 1790s from the collection of the Duc de Chaulnes. But he cheated the Paris dealer selling it by telling him its antiquity was doubtful. In fact he believed, correctly, that the solid pieces of bronze of which it is made were not cast but were hammered and chiselled, an early example of this technique. Payne Knight admired the figure technically, and considered it 'one of the most antient [sic] monuments of imitative art extant'.

    M. Clarke and N. Penny (eds), The arrogant connoisseur: Rich, exh. cat. (Whitworth Art Gallery, 1982)

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    On display: Enlightenment: Art