Bust of an Official, Greywacke

Bust of an Official

Late Period
Dynasty 30
380–342 B.C.
From Egypt; Probably from Memphite Region, Memphis (Mit Rahina), Ptah Temple
H. 38.1 × W. 30.1 × D. 17.3 cm, 22.1 kg (15 × 11 7/8 × 6 13/16 in., 48.8 lb.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1925
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 127
Only very occasionally do Egyptian statues convey a mood of sadness or concern like this one. This statue has plausibly been dated to the post-Persian Period where such features seem to fit best. The position of the arms and the lack of a back pillar suggest the original statue represented a cross-legged sitting official; if so, it would then be one of the several revivals in the fourth century of features that had gone out of vogue in early Dynasty 26.

Technical examinations of stone statues in the Egyptian collection sometimes reveal evidence for the use of modern coatings, usually applied in the early to middle 20th century, to "enhance" an uneven or damaged ancient surface. Though originally conceived as an improvement, today we recognize that these coatings are generally detrimental – concealing the original color, depth, and interest of the ancient worked stone surface.

This bust of an official had at least one such coating as well as a considerable layer of accumulated grease from handling. Analysis of the coating proved difficult and inconclusive though there was evidence of beeswax, another animal fat, and pigments. There was no question that this coating was applied in modern times since it clearly covered broken edges and damaged areas.

Although surfaces damages and marks from an aggressive over-cleaning are more visible after removal of the coating (see Conservation and Scientific Analysis Figure 1 to see the removal in process), cleaning also revealed the green color of the greywacke stone and a much more interesting and appealing surface befitting the official’s soulful, concerned expression.

Ann Heywood, Department of Objects Conservation 2016
Adriana Rizzo, Department of Scientific Research 2016
Purchased by the Museum from Khaouam Brothers, Cairo, 1925.

Winlock, Herbert E. 1937. Egyptian Statues and Statuettes. New York, fig. 22.

Scott, Nora E. 1945. Egyptian Statues. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, fig. 27.

Bothmer, Bernard V. 1984. Quaderni de 'La ricerca scientifica', 116. Rome, p. 60, fig. 7.

Shubert, Steven Blake 1989. "Realistic Currents in Portrait Sculpture of the Saite and Persian Periods in Egypt." In Journal of the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities, 19, p. 37.

Robins, Gay 2001. Egyptian Statues, Shire Egyptology, 26. Princes Risborough, p. 47, fig. 43.