- Museum number
Limestone figure of a kneeling priest: a juvenile type of face is combined with the fullness of body found on royal images made late in Amenhotep III's reign. The result is a sloe-eyed little figure who looks like nothing so much as a chubby, pretty child. He is, of course, a man and probably an important one. In addition to the leopard skin vestment of a priest, he wears a short wig from which hangs a braided, curled sidelock. This headdress was worn by several different kinds of priest, from funerary priests to the High Priest of Ptah at Memphis, at this time probably the second most powerful religious office in the land (after the High Priest of Amun at Thebes) and the most prestigious. Amenhotep III's crowned prince served as High Priest of Ptah, and so, later on, did the crown prince of Ramses the Great. It is probable that the priest's name and titles were inscribed on the front of the object he held, which has been entirely sheared away, along with his hands. What remains is only the negative space connecting his arms and his body to the object. From the shape of the break, however, it appears to have been an offering table on a stand. Kneeling reverently, the figure was presenting offerings to a god. The fortuitous preservation of the paint, especially on the head and back, shows that this was applied lavishly and with care, from the unusually naturalistic rendering of the leopard's pelt, including the white strip of belly fur visible along his proper left side, to the use of expensive blue pigment on his sidelock and perhaps elsewhere. Of his jewellery a "Gold of Honor" necklace of disk beads, armlets, and bracelets - only ghosts remain; one wonders if they might have been gilded.
Height: 30.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The only clues to the status of this man lie in the statue itself, which shows every mark of coming from one of the finest sculpture workshops. Though it is carved in limestone, a relatively soft stone usually reserved for tomb sculpture, its material is unusually fine-grained. Taking advantage of its fineness, the sculptor has modeled and finished the surfaces of the figure to give a real sense of smooth skin and soft flesh - as if the figure had been molded rather than carved.
It seems unlikely that this elaborate, expensive statue was made for a priest of low or middle rank, much less that it was intended to serve as a symbolic funerary priest in someone's tomb, serving to perpetuate the owner's cult. It is possible that the statuette represents Amenhotep III's firstborn son, Thutmosis, who was High Priest of Ptah at Memphis but was probably buried at Thebes.The suggestion is admittedly speculative, and we shall probably never know whether it is correct. The quality of the statue, however, makes it plausible.
P. Kozloff, B. Bryan, and M. Berman, 'Egypt's Dazzling Sun' (Cleveland,1992), pp.253-254  = 'Le Pharaon-Soleil' (Paris,1993), pp.215-216 ;
'Temples and Tombs' [exhibition catalogue] (American Federation of Arts, 2006): 100, cat no. 58
Permission to publish photograph of this object granted to Dr Edith Bernhauer in email 31/3/04. To be published in her thesis 'Die Innovationen in der Privatplastik der 18. Dynastie', in the Egyptological Memoirs (Brill) Series. [NCS]
Fay, Biri 2002. British Museum 21979 and Prince Thutmosis. Göttinger Miszellen 187, 23-26.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2006 7 Sept-26 Nov, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Temples & Tombs
2006 21 Dec-2007 18 Mar, Jackonsville, Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Temples & Tombs
2007 15 Apr-8 Jul, Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art, Temples & Tombs
2007 16 Nov-2008 10 Feb, New Mexico, Albuquerque Museum, Temples & Tombs
2013 July - October, Cambridge, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Origins of the Afro Comb
- fair (incomplete -broken at front)
- Acquisition date
- Egypt and Sudan
- BM/Big number
- Registration number