Egyptian; said to be from Memphis, Temple of Ptah
H. 46 in. (116.8 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. V. Everit Macy, 1923 (23.10.1)
Haremhab was a royal scribe and general of the army under Tutankhamun. He continued to serve during the reign of Aya and eventually succeeded Aya as king. This statue was made before he ascended the throne. Here, Haremhab is depicted in the scribal pose, seated on the ground with legs crossed. Across his knees he unrolls a papyrus scroll on which he has composed a hymn to the god Thoth, patron of scribes. The shell containing his ink lies on his left knee. Over his left shoulder is a strap with a miniature scribe's kit attached to each end. A figure of the god Amun is incised on his forearm, perhaps indicating a tattoo. By having himself depicted as a scribe, Haremhab declares himself to be among the elite group of literate individuals, thus following a tradition more than a thousand years old of depicting great officials as men of wisdom and learning.
Although the scribal pose exhibits the frontal orientation common to all formal Egyptian statuary, it may be appreciated more fully as a piece of sculpture in the round since it has no back pillar. Haremhab sits erect, but relaxed, his gaze slightly down, as if reading the papyrus on his lap. The youthful face reflects the features seen on many statues depicting Tutankhamun. This unlined face is belied by the potbelly and the folds of flesh beneath the breasts, artistic conventions indicating that the subject has reached the age of wisdom. The style of this magnificent lifesize sculpture retains some of the softness and naturalism of the earlier Amarna Period (the time of Akhenaten), while looking forward to later Ramesside art.