Prince Khuenra as a scribe

Egyptian
Old Kingdom, Dynasty 4, reign of Menkaura
2490–2472 B.C.


Object Place: Notes: Egypt (Giza, Menkaure Cemetery, MQ1); Findspot: Egypt, Giza, Menkaura Cemetery, MQ 1

Dimensions

Height x width x depth: 30.5 x 21.5 x 16 cm (12 x 8 7/16 x 6 5/16 in.)

Accession Number

13.3140

Medium or Technique

Limestone

Not On View

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Sculpture

A man seated with his legs crossed comfortably beneath him is the subject of this fine statue. While the pose is that of a peasant, his dignified demeanor and aloof expression suggest a higher station. The piece is uninscribed, but its findspot inside the rock-cut tomb of Khuenra, son of King Menkaura, suggests that it represents that prince. In the Fourth Dynasty beginning with Khufu, this pose seems to have been reserved for sons of kings, particularly those who held important offices. Some, like Khuenra, place their left hands flat on their laps and hold folded handkerchiefs in their right hands, as Khuenra may once have. Others unroll papyri with their left hands across “desks” formed by kilts pulled taut between their knees while positioning their right hands to hold a writing implement. The latter were clearly scribes. This identification has led scholars to refer to all sculptures in this position as scribal statues, although whether or not their owners, including Khuenre, actually served as scribes is not known. It is estimated that in the Old Kingdom, less than one percent of the population was literate.

The statue is further remarkable for the details found in its face and head. Khuenre wears a shoulder-length wig whose outswept sides frame his alert, intelligent face. Traces of its original black paint are still preserved. His eyes, enhanced by naturalistically rendered brows and a line outlining the upper lid, gaze directly outward at the viewer. A fold of flesh marks the nostrils. In a touch of individuality, the left side of his mouth droops slightly lower than the right.

Provenance

From Giza, Menkaura cemetery, MQ 1, found in sand in outer chamber of tomb of Khuenra. 1913: excavated by the Harvard University-Museum of Fine Arts Expedition; 1913: assigned to the MFA by the government of Egypt.
(Accession Date: December 4, 1913)

Credit Line

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition