Height: 19.200 cm
Acquired in 1887
Ancient Egypt and Sudan
Folding wooden headrest
From Akhmin, Egypt
Late 18th Dynasty, around 1225 BC
This folding headrest is modelled on the folding stools that were popular among the wealthy of the time. A rivet through the centre of the legs allow it to fold shut, while the neck piece of the headrest secures it in the open position. The wooden runners made the headrest stable when it was in use.
The lower ends of the legs are carved in the shape of ducks, a motif often used in furniture and toilet items. The use of Bes heads on the neck piece is typical of household items, the god being associated with protection of the home and family. Night was a time when people felt that they were vulnerable to malign forces; demons could cause illness and nightmares, attacking while the unsuspecting person slept. Figures or heads of Bes were sometimes placed on headrests to ward off these chaotic forces.
Several other examples of headrests in the shape of folding stools are known. The ones found at the sites of Kahun and Gurob are undecorated. An ivory headrest in the tomb of Tutankhamun, of a similar date, is comparable right down to the duck and Bes heads.
E. Brovarski and others (eds), Egypts golden age: the art of (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1982)
C.A.R. Andrews, Eternal Egypt: treasures from, exh. cat. (Hong Kong, Museum of Art, 1998)
E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)