Egyptian Wood Figure of a Man

Egyptian · Middle Kingdom, Dynasties 11–12, ca. 2055-1773 B.C.


Wood with pigment


H: 43 cm





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This wooden figure portrays a man in a traditional striding pose. His left leg is forward while both arms are held stiffl y at the sides. Each hand is clenched around an enigmatic cylindrical object. The man wears a rounded, curled wig, painted black. His white kilt is tightly fitted with a thick waistband, curving below the navel. The eyes and brows are rendered in black and white pigment. Several characteristic features of stone statuary necessitated by the medium, such as the back pillar and lack of open space between the limbs and body, are absent in figures carved from wood. The paucity of large, high-quality pieces of wood did limit the size of statues or require that they be assembled from separately fashioned components. Paint or a layer of gesso typically concealed the joints of the various elements. In this instance, the arms were attached to the body, which was then inserted into the base. It is not clear whether the statue was painted or covered with gesso, perhaps leaving the natural color of the wood to represent the sun-darkened flesh of the man. Small wooden statuettes were often placed in Middle Kingdom tombs, a practice begun during the late Old Kingdom. The statues were deposited in close proximity to the mummy even, in some cases, inside the coffi n. The statuette acted as an alternative resting-place for the spirit of the deceased in the event of damage to the physical body. Here, the body is thicker and softer than figures dating to the Old Kingdom, when the length and slenderness of the limbs appeared somewhat exaggerated. The rounded modeling of the pectoral and biceps muscles and the curving transition from torso to waist are characteristic of wooden figures of the early Middle Kingdom.


Complete and in good condition despite some fragments and fissures; slightly worn surface. Remains of polychromy on hair (black) and for eyes (white).


Art market, prior to 1960s;

Ex-Charles Probst Collection, Geneva, Switzerland, acquired in the 1960s.


Art of the Two Lands, Egypt from 4000 B.C. to 1000 A.D., New York, 2006, pp. 48-49, n. 11.


JORGENSEN M., Egypt I (3000-1550 B.C.), Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, 1996, pp. 76-77, no. 72.

RUSSMAN E.R., Eternal Egypt: Masterworks of Ancient Art from the British Museum, London, 2001, pp. 95–96, no. 24.

VANDIER J., Manuel d’archéologie égyptienne, Tome III, Les grandes époques, la statuaire, Paris, 1958, pp. 225 ss.