Egyptian Magnesian Schist Statuette of Couple of Dignitaries

Middle Kingdom, 2nd Intermediate period - 13th dynasty (ca. 1802 – 1650 B.C.)


Magnesian Schist


W: 8.5 cm (3.3 in)

H: 11.5 cm (4.5 in)





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Already at the time of the first pyramids, during the Old Kingdom period, Egyptian art introduced the representation of individuals, both single and couples, standing and seated. It became typical to represent a standing figure supported by a back slab (which often bears the inscribed name of the represented persons: pharaohs, high priests, officials, courtiers, and dignitaries). This composition remained traditional in the Middle Kingdom and was employed in the present statuette which depicts a couple of dignitaries. Despite the small scale of the sculpture, it is marked by many individual details and skillful precision in the carving of the hard stone.

Each figure is standing with its left leg advanced; the heads looking straight ahead and even slightly raised giving the attitude a solemn expression. The figures hold their hands which leaves no doubt that they are husband and wife. Being of similar height and proportions, the figures appear quite the same; nevertheless, they are well differentiated. The man standing on the proper right of the group has a broad face with high cheeks, long straight nose with pronounced nostrils, and a big mouth. He wears a wide-spread, shoulder-length wig which leaves his large ears uncovered. His wardrobe consists of a long kilt; it is knotted above his flat stomach and covers the ankles at the bottom, where the feet of almost rectangular shape are visible (each toe and toenail are carefully modeled). The woman’s facial features are quite similar with elongated almond-shaped eyes; the oval of her face is narrower and more delicate. She has a long and narrow tripartite wig, which covers her ears; a piece of jewelry, part of a pectoral with vertical beads, is seen in between the sides of the wig. A long gown of thin fabric that clings to her body makes her appear almost nude, with a well-indicated naval, median line of the torso, and breasts. More than the male figure, the female image clearly represents the idea of an ever young and healthy person.

Miniature family portraits became popular in Egyptian art towards the end of the Middle Kingdom, when the tradition to place them in the tomb was expanded from the exclusively pharaonic prerogative to a wider social group. Another important thing is that similar statuettes and statues were dedicated to the sanctuaries of gods or deified members of the family, where they substituted their owners in participating in the religious cult.


Excellent condition; complete; no restorations or repairs; few scratches and small chips.


Ex- K.J. Hewett (1919 – 1994) collection, UK, 1950’s


EVERS H. G., Staat aus dem Stein: Denkmäler, Geschichteund Bedeutung der ägyptischen Plastik während des mittleren Reichs, München, 1929.

FAY B., Egyptian Museum Berlin, Mainz, 1990, p.36, no. 19.

OPPENHEIM A., ARNOLD D., ARNOLD D, and YAMAMOTO K., Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, New York, 2015, pp. 145-153, nos. 79-85.

SALEH M., SOUROUZIAN H., The Egyptian Museum Cairo: Official Catalogue, Mainz am Rhein, 1987, no. 100.

VANDIER J., Manuel d’archéologie égyptienne, Tome III, Les grandes époques, La statuaire, Paris, 1958.