Sculptor’s model for the head of a king
Late Period – Ptolemaic Period, 664-30 BC
Bequest of Howard Spensley, 1939 (4160-D3)
To enable the sculptor, draughtswoman or carver of reliefs to produce an image that was acceptable to the patron, it is likely that they used models such as this one. In ancient Egyptian art it is generally believed that exact likeness of facial features were not reproduced, bu rather, idealized portrayals were preferred in which there was a focus upon youthful strength. This is indicated by the rare occurrence of what are clearly highly individualistic renditions, especially in sculptures of the upper echelons of society, yet there is a general similarity in most others.
Nevertheless, in many depictions of royalty especially, there are details, some quite subtle, which distinguish one face from another, while from one period to another different generals characteristics can be observed. To ensure the acceptability of the final image when either a compromise or a more individualistic rendering required, models could have been produced for approval. A variety of thees survive from the late Period and Ptolemaic Period, as do a category of objects termed “trial pieces“, in which the artist attempted to perfect his expertise in representing different images.
In the example illustrated the artist has devoted attention only to the front, the back remains flat. The king wears either the head cloth (nemes) or war crown with the uraeus, a symbol of his protection by the creator. His face plump, with a small smiling mouth and a full chin and neck. It is a stylized representation of a mature person.