Statue of Senedjemibmehy

Egyptian
Old Kingdom, Dynasty 6
2353–2323 B.C.


Findspot: Egypt, Giza, G 2385

Dimensions

Height: 106 cm (41 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

13.3466

Medium or Technique

Wood

On View

Egypt: Old Kingdom Funerary Arts Gallery (Gallery 105B)

Collections

The Ancient World

Classifications

Silhouettes

Ancient tomb robbers carelessly tossed this splendid wood statue under the floor of a mastaba chapel as they plundered Snedjemibmehy’s tomb. Perhaps the location sheltered it from the ravages of wood fungus, insects, and the elements until it was rediscovered in the winter of 1912. Understandably, little wood sculpture remains from ancient Egypt. Those that have survived, including this one, are among its finest and most sensitively modeled sculptures.

Snedjemibmehy stands with his left foot forward, his left arm bent at the elbow and his right arm hanging down at his side. Because the tree from which the torso was carved was not wide enough to accommodate the arms as well, they were made separately and affixed by means of mortise-and-tenon joins, a common practice. When plastered and painted, the joins would have been completely hidden. A walking stick and a scepter must have been inserted in his left and right fists respectively, as relief representations show.

Snedjemibmehy’s wig, with its meticulously carved rows of curls, draws attention to the modeling of his face. The eyes, once inlaid, were carved at a slight angle and with pronounced tear ducts. A fold of flesh at each nostril continues obliquely downward. His straight mouth contributes to his intelligent expression. Delicate modeling sets off his pectorals and bisects his torso down to the navel, which is marked by a deep hollow. His nipples were also once inlaid. These details are characteristic of a more expressive style that coexisted during the Old Kingdom with more idealized representations.

Most unusually, this sculpture is nude. Traditionally, only young children were shown without clothes. However, the static pose and large scale leave little doubt that the tomb owner himself is represented, and the fact that he is circumcised, a practice that took place at puberty, indicates that he was an adult when the sculpture was carved. While clothing may have been added in paint or plaster or his torso may have once been wrapped in cloth, no trace of any of these materials has been found.

Snedjemibmehy was a member of a family of architects that served the royal family from the reign of Isesi of Dynasty 5 to Pepy II of the end of Dynasty 6. He was Unis’s chief architect. The entire family was buried in the same tomb complex at Giza.


Ancient tomb robbers carelessly tossed this splendid wood statue under the floor of a mastaba chapel as they plundered Snedjemibmehy’s tomb. Perhaps the location sheltered it from the ravages of wood fungus, insects, and the elements until it was rediscovered in the winter of 1912. Understandably, little wood sculpture remains from ancient Egypt. Those that have survived, including this one, are among its finest and most sensitively modeled sculptures.

Snedjemibmehy stands with his left foot forward, his left arm bent at the elbow and his right arm hanging down at his side. Because the tree from which the torso was carved was not wide enough to accommodate the arms as well, they were made separately and affixed by means of mortise-and-tenon joins, a common practice. When plastered and painted, the joins would have been completely hidden. A walking stick and a scepter must have been inserted in his left and right fists respectively, as relief representations show.

Snedjemibmehy’s wig, with its meticulously carved rows of curls, draws attention to the modeling of his face. The eyes, once inlaid, were carved at a slight angle and with pronounced tear ducts. A fold of flesh at each nostril continues obliquely downward. His straight mouth contributes to his intelligent expression. Delicate modeling sets off his pectorals and bisects his torso down to the navel, which is marked by a deep hollow. His nipples were also once inlaid. These details are characteristic of a more expressive style that coexisted during the Old Kingdom with more idealized representations (pp. 88-89, for example).

Most unusually, this sculpture is nude. Traditionally, only young children were shown without clothes. However, the static pose and large scale leave little doubt that the tomb owner himself is represented, and the fact that he is circumcised, a practice that took place at puberty, indicates that he was an adult when the sculpture was carved. While clothing may have been added in paint or plaster or his torso may have once been wrapped in cloth, no trace of any of these materials has been found.

Snedjemibmehy was a member of a family of architects that served the royal family from the reign of Isesi of Dynasty 5 to Pepy II of the end of Dynasty 6. He was Unis’s chief architect. The entire family was buried in the same tomb complex at Giza.

Provenance

From Giza, G 2385 / room H. 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