Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Imhotep

Period:
Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
Date:
664–30 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt
Medium:
Cupreous metal, precious metal inlay
Dimensions:
H. 16.2 cm (6 3/8 in.); W. 4.8 cm (1 7/8 in.); D. 7.7 cm (3 1/16 in.) H. (with tang): 18.1 cm (7 1/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Helen Miller Gould, 1910
Accession Number:
10.130.1310
Not on view
Imhotep was adviser to King Djoser in the third dynasty and he is credited with the design of the Step Pyramid in Saqqara, the earliest pyramid in Egypt. For this and other achievements of wisdom and learning attributed to him, in later periods he became one of the only historical non-royal people to be divinized and to have a dedicated cult, which was particularly strong in the Memphite region. In copper alloy statuettes like this one, he is shown sitting, wearing his close-fitting cap and holding a scroll on his lap. Imhotep’s scroll serves to emphasize his wisdom and erudition, his role as a patron of scribes, and hints at the many intellectual forays into medicine, architecture, and engineering that were later ascribed to him. His eyes are gilded, which gives him a piercing look, and his facial and bodily features are well defined, if somewhat angular on the upper body. His attire varies, but in this instance he wears a broad collar that is articulated on the front and back of his chest and a short kilt.
Formerly in the collection of the Reverend Chauncey Murch (died 1907). Collected between 1883 and 1906 while Murch was a missionary in Egypt. Collection purchased by the Museum from the Murch family with funds provided by Helen Miller Gould, 1910.

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