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Ebony statue of Meryrahashtef

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Height: 58.100 cm

The tomb of Meryrahashtef was found by Sir W.M. Flinders Petrie (1920-21)
Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund (1923)

EA 55722

Ancient Egypt and Sudan

    Ebony statue of Meryrahashtef

    From his tomb at Sedment, Egypt
    Old Kingdom, 6th Dynasty (about 2345-2181 BC)

    This wooden statue is one of several found in the tomb of Meryrahashtef, an overseer of farmers in the provincial town of Sedment. Tombs of wealthy individuals of late Old Kingdom (about 2613-2160 BC) often contained a group of wooden statues showing the owner in a range of poses and costumes. These could act as substitutes if the body itself was destroyed.

    The statue shows Meryrahashtef as a young man, though his skeleton shows that he reached maturity. This idealization is typical of Egyptian art, which aimed to show everything in its most perfect form. The carving of the muscles, particularly on the chest and legs conveys an impression of activity. Naked statues of the tomb owner are a feature of the late Old Kingdom; the depiction of youth is thought to be a reference to the hope for rebirth.

    Another unusual feature is that the statue is carved from a single piece of wood, rather than having the arms made separately and attached with mortice and tenon joints. The quality of the carving of this statue suggests that it was made by a master craftsman. Finely carved wooden statues were probably not considered inferior to stone ones, as wood was a precious commodity in Egypt due to its scarcity.

    T.G.H. James and W.V. Davies, Egyptian sculpture (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)

    D. Arnold, C. Ziegler and C.H. Roehrig, Egyptian art in the age of the (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999)

    E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

    S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

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