Egyptian Black Basalt Bust of a Man - X.0014
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 1991 BC to 1786 BC
Dimensions: 4" (10.2cm) high
Collection: Egyptian
Style: Middle Kingdom; 3rd Int. Period
Medium: Basalt


Although small in scale, this bust from a statuette is executed with a jewel-like precision. This elite member of Egyptian society is represented with his upper arms at the sides of his torso. That torso is well-modeled in asymmetrical, bi-partition with its pronounced sternal notch intersecting the pectoral muscles of the chest. His navel is designed as a slightly off-centered depression. His face is framed by a traditional and heavy shoulder-length wig which is tucked in behind the ears so that it falls to the chest in triangular points. In keeping with artistic tenets of the period, his ears appear to be disproportionately large in relationship to his head and mimic the relative size of ears on contemporary royal images. His brow is naturalistically rendered without the indication of eye brows and protrudes above deep sockets into which his elongated eyes with their heavy lids have been set. His nose is characterized by wide nostrils over a wide mouth with fleshy lips. Overall, the face gives one the impression of a somewhat corpulent but mature individual whose life experiences have been etched into his countenance.

Images such as these have been described as depicting care-worn, concerned officials worrying about the plight of their contemporaries. Their expressions have been compared to the period’s literary compositions which decry corruption and advocate a return to socially-acceptable norms of behavior. These are concerns which strike a familiar chord in our own time and demonstrate, once again, the timelessness of ancient Egyptian art.


For a recent assessment of such images and their relationship to the literature of the period, see D. Wildung [editor], Ägypten 2000 v.Chr. Die Geburt des Individuums (Munich 2000).

- (X.0014)




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