Kushite priest wearing garment with leopard's head and tassels, subsequently adapted for a king
Late Period, Kushite
ca. 712–664 B.C.
Leaded bronze, precious metal leaf
H. 21 x D. 5.5 cm (8 1/4 x 2 3/16 in)
Purchase, Gift in memory of Manuel Schnitzer and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2010
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 125
The rounded head with small features atop a slender but powerful body identifies this statue as Kushite. Beneath the bare torso, the lower body is clothed with a kilt. From a wide belt hangs a leopard's head, signifiying priestly office, and long cords ending in vegetal tassels. The arms and legs, now missing, would have been attached separately.
This beautiful and vital figure represents a Kushite priest. The rounded head with smooth front and rear profiles, small ears, narrow eyes, and assured smile are characteristic of images of Kushites, as is the full, powerful body. The long cords hanging from the belt are associated with Kushite priestly garments.
Not long after the statue's creation, it was altered for use by a king: in addition to changes made to the statue's limbs, the original rectangular panel at the front of the kilt was recut to have the form of a royal triangular apron with streamers on either side. The fact that the elaborate priestly regalia were left intact suggests they must have been still meaningful.These circumstances make it likely the statue originally represented one of the Kushite princes-known to have been placed in high priestly positions-who had either died or been captured by Assyrian invaders in the tumultuous years between 671 and 664 B.C. The other possibility is that the statue represented the Theban grandee Mentuemhat, and that the modifications represent an assumption of royal regalia after the Kushite withdrawal.
Marsha Hill and Deborah Schorsch 2010
Incorporated in Curatorial Interpretation
Collection of Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, France, by the 1960s. Purchased by the museum from Jean-Pierre Montesino, Paris, 2010, who notes that the original owner recalled to him that she had purchased the statuette in Egypt in 1940 from Phocion Tano.