h. 21 cm (8 1/4 in); w. 14.3 cm (5 5/8 in); d. 11 cm (4 5/16 in)
Purchase, Anne and John V. Hansen Egyptian Purchase Fund, and Magda Saleh and Jack Josephson Gift, 2003
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.