Saturday, August 28, 2010

Photo for Today - Man with calf and dog

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks for both the photo and for finding the descriptions

Old Kingdom artwork is stunning.

(Hanging Fragment)
Man with Calf and Dog
Sculptor: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 2400 BC (Old Kingdom)
Medium: carved limestone, red pigment
Measurements: 16 15/16 x 39 3/4 x 1 3/8 in. (43 x 101 x 3.5 cm)
Item Description:

This Old Kingdom relief fragment has suffered severe damage from salt since its original carving. This has caused pitting over many areas of the piece, especially on the foot of the man, the calf, and the dog. The preserved carving is in fine, raised relief, including such small details as the hair at the tip of the calf's tail and the 'elbow' on each of the dog's legs. The block was originally painted, and traces of red pigment still remains in some areas.

There are two separate scenes actually depicted, easily distinguished by the different scales of the figures. On the left is a man at small scale who bends over a calf, pushing at the rear with one hand while pulling on the rope tied around it's neck with the other. A single man doing this is uncommon, and the sharp angle at which the servant bends in order to simultaneously lead and push the calf from behind is also unusual. The man has short hair and wears a short, fitted kilt with a large tie at the waist. This type of kilt is first seen in the 4th Dynasty, but continues into the 6th Dynasty. The musculature of the man's biceps is paralleled in tombs of both the 4th and 5th Dynasty, such as the tomb of Nofer at Giza and that of Sekhem-ankh-ptah at Saqqara. Above the calf is an inscription which reads "Bringing the calf" (jn.t bhz).

Facing the man and calf is a dog, identifiable by his "long narrow muzzle, nearly straight facial profile, slender body, long neck and limbs" (Brewer, 116) as a greyhound, with a rope collar and curled tail. The dog stands at his master's feet, to whose scale he is carved. The tomb owner's staff crosses the body of the dog, as does his left foot. Above the dog is his name, Beha (bh3) possibly an abbreviation of "behkai" (oryx antelope), a dog's name known from other contexts. Beginning in the 5th Dynasty, dogs are commonly placed in hunting scenes, in the fields, or under the deceased's chair. However, a very similar scene to this one, in which the tomb owner stands with his dog at his feet, can be found at Giza in the tomb of Ha-ef-Ra-ankh from the middle or late 5th Dynasty. The type of the dog, as well as his collar are so similar that it is likely that the relief comes from this tomb or was made by the same craftsmen team in a tomb nearby.

The dual composition of the relief fragment suggests it is part of a larger wall scene in which various servants of the tomb owner's estate bring and present the products and wealth of his holdings to him. During the Old Kingdom these types of scenes were generally placed on the east and west walls of a tomb. The thick border which forms the left edge and base of the scene might imply that it was located either next to a door or as part of a long wall with multiple false doors and/or multiple scenes. The tomb from which the fragment originated must be located at Giza, and dates to the middle or late 5th Dynasty based on relief and composition.

(Left Side)
Statue Group of Nen-kheft-ka and His Wife, Nefer-shemes
Artist: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 2350 BC (Old Kingdom)
Medium: limestone, traces of paint
Measurements: 21 7/16 x 12 3/16 x 8 3/4 in. (54.5 x 31 x 22.3 cm)
Item Description:
Found in a rock-cut tomb at Deshasheh, located about seventy miles to the south of modern Cairo, this pair statue of the mayor Nen-kheft-ka and his wife Nefer-shemes exemplifies in the pose and relative scale of its subjects the standard Egyptian artistic conventions for the representation of men and women. Nen-kheft-ka strides forward with his left foot and holds his arms closely at his sides, while his wife is depicted on a smaller scale and stands with her feet together. Each statue was carved separately and altered prior to burial to fit into a shared base.

(Center Head)
Man's Head with Curled Wig
Sculptor: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 2490 BC (Old Kingdom)
Medium: carved anorthosite gneiss
Measurements: 5 1/8 x 4 5/16 x 4 13/16 in. (13 x 11 x 12.3 cm)
Item Description:
During the Old Kingdom, the tombs of courtiers and officials were usually placed near the pyramid complex of their monarch. These tombs, called "mastabas," typically contained one or more statues representing the deceased official, members of his family, and perhaps his servants. Meant as dwellings for the spirit of the individual, such sculptural representations ensured a continued existence in the afterlife.

This small non-royal head of dark, anorthosite gneiss is executed with great skill. The round face is emphasized by a round wig whose bands of curls radiate from a spot on the top of the head. The almond shaped eyes bulge slightly and are set under a natural brow line. The nose is straight with a slight bulb on the end of the nose. The philtrum is indicated above the full lips. The chin has a prominent bulge. The remains of the shoulders indicate that the neck of the statue was not long. The facial features are slightly asymmetrical, a feature prevalent in the Old Kingdom.

(Right Center)
Head of a Man
Sculptor: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 2350-2280 BC (Old Kingdom)
Medium: limestone with paint
Measurements: 5 1/8 x 4 5/16 x 4 15/16 in. (13 x 11 x 12.5 cm)
Item Description:
This excellently worked head once belonged to a statue of a dignitary, but is now broken off at the neck. The head displays attention to detail both in the treatment of the facial features and in the careful indication of the tight curls forming the owner's wig. Remnants of a black-painted uninscribed pillar reach the middle of the back of the head. He wears a black wig of short concentric curls that covers his ears. His flesh was originally red (the typical skin color used to represent ancient Egyptian males); however only traces of red pigment remain around the edge of the face, the corners of the eyes, the sides of the neck, and on the mouth. The eyebrows and lids are carved in low relief. In addition to the extensive loss of pigment and the break at the neck, there is also damage to the nose, chin, lips, and the cheeks of this piece.

(Right Side)
Standing Man
Sculptor: Anonymous (Egyptian)
Date (Period): ca. 2250-2200 BC (late Old Kingdom)
Medium: wood
Measurements: 11 1/4 x 2 1/4 x 2 9/16 in. (28.5 x 5.8 x 6.5 cm)
Item Descrpition:
This wooden and probably originally painted statuette depicts a standing man with the left leg in advance. Wood was a popular material for Old Kingdom private sculpture.

This statuette would have been placed in the "serdab," or statue chamber, of the owner's tomb.

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