The Priest, the Prince, and the Pasha
The Life and Afterlife of an Ancient Egyptian Sculpture
Sometime in the early fourth century BC, an unknown Egyptian master carved an exquisite portrait in dark-green stone. The statue that included this remarkably lifelike head of a priest may have been damaged when the Persians conquered Egypt, in 343 BC, before it was ritually buried in a temple complex dedicated to the worship of the sacred Apis bull. Its adventures were not over, though: after almost two millennia, the head was excavated by Auguste Mariette, a founding figure in French archaeology, under a permit from the Ottoman Pasha. Sent to France as part of a collection of antiquities assembled for the inimitable Bonaparte prince known as Plon-Plon, it found a home in his faux Pompeian palace. After disappearing again, it resurfaced in the personal collection of Edward Perry Warren, a turn-of-the-twentieth-century American aesthete, who sold it to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Along the way, this compelling and mysterious sculpture, now known worldwide as the Boston Green Head, has reflected the West’s evolving understanding of Egyptian art—from initial assertions that it was too refined to be the product of a lesser civilization, to recognition of the sophistication of the culture that produced it.
"A tale not only engagingly told, but beautifully and imaginatively illustrated with vintage paintings, engravings, and photographs."
—Ingrid D. Rowland, The New York Review of Books
"A feat of storytelling that makes "Raiders of the Lost Ark" look like kid stuff."
—The Wall Street Journal
"Berman's book is to be highly recommended for the different (often very colourful) stories behind this incredible face that it throws into relief."
—Egyptian Archaeology: The Bulletin of the Egypt Exploration Society