Seated statuette of an official

Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11 or early Dynasty 12
2140–1926 B.C.

Object Place: Egypt, Asyut


Height x width x depth: 28 x 12.5 x 19.5 cm (11 x 4 15/16 x 7 11/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Travertine (Egyptian alabaster)

On View

Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery (Gallery 119)


The Ancient World



This enigmatic travertine statuette of an unidentified official differs strikingly in both form and material from most three-dimensional representations of humans in Egyptian art. The figure, seated on a cube-shaped seat without a back, is highly abstract, with barely articulated limbs and a short, thick neck. His head appears to be shaven, and the line of the kilt is hardly apparent. The eyes were originally inlaid with stone set in a copper frame, a technique that would have made the face significantly more lifelike. The lack of eyes, along with damage to the nose, exaggerates the figure’s disturbing, almost ghostlike appearance.

The unusual appearance of the statuette may be explained by its function. It is one of a small group of travertine funerary figures so similar in style that they are probably products of the same workshop. Because one of them was found in the cabin of a wooden model funerary ship in a rock-cut tomb in Middle Egypt, it is thought that all of them are likely to have portrayed the tomb owner sailing on his journey to the afterlife. Scholars have suggested that the men who carved these figures were sculptors who normally manufactured stone vessels and wooden models, and that they were only beginning to experiment with carving the human figure in stone.


By 1959: William Kelly Simpson Collection; lent to the MFA by William Kelly Simpson November 16, 1959; given to the MFA by William Kelly Simpson January 13, 1971.
(Accession Date: January 13, 1971)

Credit Line

Gift of William Kelly Simpson in memory of William Stevenson Smith