Head from a Statue with Magical Texts

Period: Late Period

Dynasty: Dynasty 30

Reign: probably reign of Nectanebo II

Date: probably 360–343 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt

Medium: Basalt

Dimensions: h. 21.2 cm (8 3/8 in); w. 14.5 cm (5 11/16 in); d. 11.5 cm (4 1/2 in)

Credit Line: Gift of Norbert Schimmel Trust, 1989

Accession Number: 1989.281.102


This magnificent fragmentary head, previously in the Nadler collection, is about two-thirds lifesize. It depicts a man well advanced in years, as indicated by the furrowed brow, the very linear crow's feet, the pronounced nasolabial folds, and the sharply etched lines in the cheeks. The head also has a weak chin; the full throat almost completely obscures the jawline, perhaps another indication of the subject's old age. It has been pointed out that heads such as this show characteristics usually identified with later Roman portraiture.

The man's bagwig, now mostly destroyed, was inscribed with magical texts of a type recorded most completely on the Metternich stela (MMA 50.85). These texts protect against scorpions, snakes, and other dangerous animals, and were inscribed on statuary only in the fourth century B.C. Both stylistically and textually, the head can be attributed to the middle or second half of that century. On two well-preserved statues of this type (in the Louvre and the Egyptian Museum, Cairo), only the skin of the faces, hands, and feet is uninscribed. This head probably came from a statue similarly covered with text. In contrast to other statues, the hieroglyphs across the man's brow are right side up.