High Priest as King (?)
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: 19th Dynasty to Roman Period, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Gallery, 3rd Floor
The highly idealizing treatment of this face, including the narrow eyebrows, the sharp vertical lines running down the nose, the full round cheeks, and the small mouth, is paralleled on some of the Twenty-first Dynasty's few royal sculptures and reliefs. Moreover, the cavity on the forehead once accommodated a uraeus cobra, a symbol of royalty. Still, the head does not necessarily represent a king. It may be one of the dynasty's high priests, who often usurped royal insignias, including the uraeus, as a sign of their authority over Upper Egypt during the political turmoil of the period.
ca. 1070-945 B.C.E.
Third Intermediate Period
4 7/16 x 2 7/8 x 3 1/4 in. (11.3 x 7.3 x 8.3 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Archaeological provenance not yet documented; prior to 1819, reportedly in the collection of Charles-Philippe Campion de Tersan of France; by 1841, acquired by James-Alexandre de Pourtalès, Comte de Pourtalès-Gorgier of Switzerland; February-March 1865, purchased from the James-Alexandre de Pourtalès, Comte de Pourtalès-Gorgier collection sale, “Vente de la galerie Pourtales”, by Lord William Tyssen-Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst of Hackney, of London, United Kingdom; June 13-17, 1921, sold at Sotheby’s London, “The Amherst Collection of Egyptian and Oriental Antiquities”, lot 258; between 1921 and 1936, provenance not yet documented; before 1936, acquired by Dikran Kelekian of New York, NY; 1936, purchased from Dikran Kelekian by the Brooklyn Museum.
Red quartzite head presumably a king, originally fitted with bronze uraeus, now missing. Head entirely shaved, prominent ears.
Condition: Chin chipped, various minor chips.
High Priest as King (?), ca. 1070-945 B.C.E. Quartzite, 4 7/16 x 2 7/8 x 3 1/4 in. (11.3 x 7.3 x 8.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.835. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 36.835_threequarter_SL1.jpg)
threequarter, 36.835_threequarter_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Is the hole in his head damage or symbolic of something?
Good eye! That hole shows the loss of a uraeus, which you will see in many other depictions of kings in the same spot on their head or headdress. The uraeus was a protective goddess in the form of a cobra, whose image was affixed to a variety of objects. Look for them as you explore! You can find many in those galleries.
Tell me more.
The hole in his forehead is where a uraeus cobra once would have reared its head.
The indication of the cobra, but no other royal headdress leads scholars to believe that this head depicts a priest who tried to claim kingly power. This is know to have happened especially with high priests of Amun around the time this was created, the 21st Dynasty.