The piece from the text that I chose to examine is the Seated Scribe, from Saqqara, Egypt. The piece was made around 2551-2528 B.C. It was carved with from sandstone. The sculpture depicts a man sitting with his legs crossed, holding a scroll. The statue was discovered in 1850 by a French archaeologist named Auguste Mariette. The work now resides in The Louvre, in Paris.
Overall, the work differs from a lot of other ancient Egyptian sculptures in several key ways. First, it retains its original paint, which gives the statue a much livelier feel. In addition, the statue is much more naturalistic and individual in comparison to some other ancient Egyptian works. You can plainly see excess fat around the scribe’s chest and belly, and there is a look of contentment on his face.
Overall the painting is very naturalistic for its time. The figure is comprised of the curved lines characteristic of a real human, even down to the slight curve of his mouth into what is not quite a smile. The paint that is added to the sculpture further asserts this feel of reality, as it conveys natural skin tones and eye colors. The texture of the sculpture is very smooth, with little depth, which creates the implied texture of smooth skin.
Other than the scroll in the scribes left hand, the sculpture is very symmetrical, with even proportions in the face, and limbs going the same direction on either side. The statue is painted in even tones, calm tones, with very little contrast. This reflects the fact that the figure is content, or that his is doing what he should be. Further adding to the personalized feel of the sculpture are some of its odd features. The lips are abnormally thin, the eyes abnormally large, and the hands are oddly small for a figure of its size. There is a lack of normal Egyptian emphasis on the face and head (no headdress, very little make-up) that draws the eye to what the scribe is actually doing. This takes the mind away from what he is, and towards what he does. Although the sculpture doesn’t have the usually attention to the head and face, special attention was given to the eyes, as they were sculpted and painted in great detail when compared to the rest of the sculpture.
The sculpture is complete, meaning that no stone is left where it shouldn’t naturally be. Stone is removed under the figures arms, around his head and neck, and all the way around the back. This is not typical of other Egyptian sculptures, such as those of royalty.
Though the scribe seems to depict someone of lesser clout than many of the royal works, the scribe must have been important, as he had his own tomb, where the sculpture was found. Scribes in ancient times were very highly regarded, as they were some of the very few who knew how to read and write.
In summation, while works of depicting royalty in ancient Egyptian culture are much more idealized, the Seated Scribe strives to depict the reality of an everyday man. Everything in the sculpture, from the line formulation, to the colors, to the way it was carved convey something much more natural than what we see from other more stylized works.
Work The Seated Scribe. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/seated-scribe
Adams, L. (2011). A history of western art. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.