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front: Head of a pharaoh

Head of a pharaoh

Figure: head
Historical period(s)
Dynasty 5 or 6, Old Kingdom, ca. 2675-2130 BCE
Stone and copper
H x W x D: 58 x 17.7 x 26.8 cm (22 13/16 x 6 15/16 x 10 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
Whose portrait is this? The headgear and moustache identify the figure as an Egyptian pharaoh; the tall crown with the rounded top, known as the White Crown, signified rule over southern Egypt. Broken at the neck, the head originally belonged to a full, probably standing, statue. In ancient Egypt, such statues were placed in tombs to serve as eternal images of the deceased. Sculptors sought to convey the pharaoh's divine character, while also experimenting with realistic portrayals of the human face and body.

Displayed in a museum case, this head resembles isolated portrait heads familiar in Western art—tempting us to think of it as a finished object. The original statue probably provided further clues to the figure's identity, perhaps including a hieroglyphic inscription naming the pharaoh. Details of the crown and face suggest that this statue was carved in Dynasty 5 or 6, the period following the building of the Great Pyramids at Giza (ca. 2500 B.C.E.). Few royal statues survive from these dynasties, making this head a rare example of Egyptian royal portraiture produced toward the end of the Old Kingdom (2675–2130 B.C.E.)

Provenance information is currently unavailable
On View Location
Currently not on view
Dynasty 5 (ca. 2500 - 2350 BCE), Dynasty 6 (ca. 2350 - 2170 BCE), Egypt, Old Kingdom (ca. 2675 - 2130 BCE), pharaoh, portrait, WWII-era provenance
Collection(s) Area
Ancient Egyptian Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.