Face from a composite statue of king Den

Egyptian
Early Dynastic Period, Dynasty 1
2873–2859 B.C.


Findspot: Egypt, Probably Abydos

Dimensions

height x width (max): 16.3 x 9.7 cm (6 7/16 x 3 13/16 in.)

Accession Number

60.1181

Medium or Technique

Wood

On View

Egypt: Pre-Dynastic and Dynastic (Gallery 105A)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

Because ancient wood rarely survives, very little large-scale wooden sculpture remains from any period in Egyptian history. Thus, this remarkably well-preserved face from such an early date is un-paralleled. The concave, masklike face was probably attached to a core made of a different material, possibly a less valuable type of wood. The eyes and eyebrows, now missing, were once inlaid with crystal or stone, which would have given the face a lifelike appearance. This inlay technique continued to be used for wooden statuary in later periods as well. The wig or hair is rendered as a series of overlapping cylindrical coils, while the beard and moustache are composed of rows of neat, stylized curls.

Although some scholars have suggested that the sculpture represents a foreigner, it has now been identified as king Den, in whose tomb at Abydos German excavators recently discovered fragments of the same statue. Fragments of similar wooden statues have been found in the royal and elite tombs in cemeteries at both Abydos and Saqqara. In addition, surviving groups of cylindrical locks of hair made of faience (a self-glazing, non-clay ceramic composed of quartz, lime, and alkali) may also come from similar composite statues.


This concave, masklike face was once part of a composite statue with a core made of a different material, possibly a less valuable type of wood. The eyes and eyebrows, now missing, were once inlaid with crystal or stone, which would have given the face a lifelike appearance. The wig or hair is rendered as a series of overlapping cylindrical coils, while the beard and moustache are composed of rows of neat, stylized curls. Although the identity of the man represented was long unknown, it has now been identified as king Den, in whose tomb at Abydos German excavators recently discovered fragments of the same statue.

Provenance

Probably from Abydos (said to have been excavated by Emile Amelineau in 1895 at the royal tombs of Dynasties 1 and 2). By early 20th century: Emile Amelineau collection, Paris; by 1960 J.J. Klejman collection; 1960: given to the MFA by J.J. Klejman.

Credit Line

Gift of J. J. Klejman