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Pair Statue of Nebsen and Nebet-ta

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
To express the physical and spiritual bond between two individuals, sculptors devised a form called the pair statue. The most common variety showed the subjects—a husband and wife, a mother and child, or a king and a divinity, for example—seated together on a chair or bench. The earliest documented examples date to the reign of King Djoser in the Third Dynasty (circa 2675–2625 B.C.E.).

This New Kingdom pair statue represents a married couple. The inscription tells us that the man is Nebsen, a scribe in the royal treasury, and the woman is Nebet-ta, a singer in the temple of the goddess Isis. They each pass one arm behind the other, a symbol of closeness. In order to convey this sentiment and to create a harmonious design, the sculptor extended the arms to unnatural lengths.
MEDIUM Limestone, pigment
  • Possible Place Collected: Sumenu (Dahamsha), Egypt
  • DATES ca. 1400–1352 B.C.E.
    DYNASTY Dynasty 18
    PERIOD New Kingdom
    DIMENSIONS 15 7/8 x 8 9/16 x 9 1/4 in. (40.4 x 21.8 x 23.5 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
    PROVENANCE Archaeological provenance not yet documented; by 1896, acquired by Lady (Valerie Susan) Meux of Theobald's Park, United Kingdom; May 1911, sold by the estate of Lady Meux at the Theobald’s Park, Waltham Cross sale, lot 1531; between 1911 and 1939, provenance not documented; by 1939, acquired by William Randolph Hearst of California; July 11-12, 1939, sold at Sotheby’s, London sale of objects from the collection of William Randolph Hearst; by 1940, acquired by Hagop Kevorkian of New York, NY; 1940, purchased from Hagop Kevorkian by the Brooklyn Museum.
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    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Painted limestone double statue of Neb-sen and his sister-wife, Nebet-ta. Figures seated on common seat with rounded plinth behind. Inscribed on plinth, sides and front of seat and down centers of skirts. Elaborate wigs and necklaces. Condition: General condition good with various minor surface chips. Upper left front of seat chipped. Plinth chipped at edges. Extensive remains of paint in various places, particularly around heads and in hieroglyphs and on plinth.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
    CAPTION Pair Statue of Nebsen and Nebet-ta, ca. 1400–1352 B.C.E. Limestone, pigment, 15 7/8 x 8 9/16 x 9 1/4 in. (40.4 x 21.8 x 23.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 40.523. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 40.523_view1_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE front, 40.523_view1_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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