Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ritual Figure

Late Period or Early Ptolemaic Period
Dynasty 30 or later
380–246 B.C.
From Egypt
Wood, formerly clad with lead sheet
h. 21 cm (8 1/4 in); w. 14.3 cm (5 5/8 in); d. 11 cm (4 5/16 in)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Anne and John V. Hansen Egyptian Purchase Fund, and Magda Saleh and Jack Josephson Gift, 2003
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 128
The fluid pose and chest-beating gesture of this extraordinary figure evoke a stately performance. Egyptian relief representations depict such figures as part of a troupe of similarly genuflecting divine beings with falcon and jackal heads. This troupe is usually seen attending the sunrise or the birth and coronation of a king; three-dimensional figures of the same type were set around the processional shrines of certain gods, doubtlessly to accompany the epiphany of the deity during a procession.

It is not easy to explain the presence among the animal-headed divinities of the human-headed figure wearing—as seen here—the regalia of a pharaoh. Some scholars interpret the figure as the representation of an actual king. Others understand it as a mythical being that introduces royal aspects into the otherworldly ritual. Whatever its exact meaning, this masterpiece of wood carving was certainly part of a temple's equipment. Its ritual character was further emphasized by a covering of lead sheet, now vanished.
Peytel Collection, Paris, by 1922; exhibited "Centenaire de Champollion," Louvre, Paris, 1922; Behague Collection, Paris; exhibited Egypte-France, Paris, 1949; Josephson Collection, New York from 1987; acquired by the Museum, donation and purchase, 2003. Frequently published.

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