Figure of a Man
Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View: Egyptian Orientation Gallery, 3rd Floor
These three figurines represent two women and a man. They resemble the group painted on the Jar with Boat Design in a nearby case. In the scene on the jar, the larger female figure with upraised arms appears to be celebrating a ritual in the presence of the two smaller figures.
The bird-like faces on two of these figurines probably represent human noses, the source of the breath of life. The dark patch on the larger female’s head and the white paint on the male’s head and shoulders represent hair, also a human trait. All three figurines wear white skirts, indicating high-status individuals.
ca. 3500-3300 B.C.E.
Predynastic Period, early Naqada II (possibly)
6 3/16 x 2 1/4 x 1 in. (15.7 x 5.7 x 2.6 cm) (show scale)
Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
Archaeological provenance not yet documented, reportedly from Nagade, Egypt; by 1910, acquired by Friedrich Wilhelm von Bissing; before 1934, acquired from von Bissing by the Scheurleer Museum, the Hauge, the Netherlands; 1935, purchased from the Scheurleer Museum by the Fondation Egyptologique Reine Elisabeth; 1935, purchased from the Fondation Egyptologique Reine Elisabeth by the Brooklyn Museum.
Standing terracotta figurine of a man. "Bird type" head. Arms indicated by triangular stumps. Large phallus. Division of legs indicated by deep incision on front and back. Lower part of legs missing but presumably ended in tapering point.
Condition: Broken at waist and assembled. Apparently hair was depicted by an overlay, most of which is now lost. Torso and head are a much darker red than the lower part of the body. Lower part of base missing. Minor chips on neck and breast.
Figure of a Man, ca. 3500-3300 B.C.E. Terracotta, pigment, 6 3/16 x 2 1/4 x 1 in. (15.7 x 5.7 x 2.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 35.1269. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 35.1269_front_PS6.jpg)
front, 35.1269_front_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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How do we know this is a woman?
Great question! Representations of female figures with highly abstracted forms occur throughout most of the Predynastic Period. On statuettes of this period, the legs are usually not articulated and the faces are beaklike. However, features like the breasts on the left figure help identify the sex of the piece. The symbolism, function, and identity of the figure are not certain. However, similar female figures painted on Predynastic vessels appear to be goddesses, because they are always larger than the male "priests" shown with them. Perhaps represents a priestess or a goddess dancing or performing ritualized mourning at a funeral ritual.
The figure on the right is of a man. His form is more box shaped with bird type head. There is a bulge in between his legs which also indicates that it is a