All of the individuals in this small group are males, represented according to the conventions of Amarna art. The intriguing group has been variously interpreted as a family comprising a grandfather, a father, and a son, or as one man at three different stages of life. The latter is most unlikely as the multiple representations of a single individual in one statue are not shown interacting as they do here. In fact careful examination of the faces and figures points to the statue's being a kind of domestic icon. The figure at left is a high-status individual and likely the oldest; he is probably a revered relative or the respected overlord of the man and boy who stand closely entwined with one another. The statuette would probably have received veneration in the household of its owner.
All three of these figures originally wore broad collars containing the pigment Egyptian blue. Egyptian blue, a synthetic form of the mineral cuprorivaite, was the most widely used blue in ancient times and is believed to be the first synthetically produced pigment. "Ghosts" of these now-missing blue painted broad collars are visible on the two right-hand figures in the form of better preserved red skin color; apparently the Egyptian blue paint helped to protect the underlying red pigment. Minute traces of blue pigment from the collars were found under 10x microscopy, but the most dramatic evidence for the collars was revealed using visible-induced IR luminescence photography. This technique takes advantage of the fact that even trace amounts of Egyptian blue show a strong infrared emission when excited in the visible range. This emission can be captured photographically, allowing us to dramatically and non-invasively recreate the missing collars (see Conservation and Scientific Analysis Figure 1).
Ann Heywood, Department of Objects Conservation, 2016
Purchased by the Museum in Luxor from Mohammed Mohassib, 1911.
Metropolitan Museum of Art 1911. A Handbook of the Egyptian Rooms. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 95-96, fig. 41.
Hornemann, Bodil 1951. Types of Ancient Egyptian Statuary (Copenhagen, 1951-1969). n. 1403.