Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Relief plaque with face of an owl hieroglyph

Late Period–Ptolemaic Period
400–30 B.C.
From Egypt
10.3 x 11.1 x 2.5 cm (4 1/16 x 4 3/8 x 1 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1907
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 134
Small Late Period and Ptolemaic reliefs or sculptures that depict a subject in a partial or unfinished way but are themselves finished objects constitute a special class of object. Guidelines like those for artists are often prominently exhibited as part of the object, although, in fact, many instances can be noted where the object simply could not serve as a suitable model for a traditional formal Egyptian representation. Personifications of kingship, figures that may represent the now emerging demigods Imhotep and Amenhotep Son of Hapu, and popular gods like Harpokrates or Isis, are heavily represented within the corpus.

Taken together, the figures represented and the other features indicate the reliefs and sculptures of this class, sometimes called by Egyptologists "sculptor’s models / votives," were the material of a donation practice, perhaps connected with the prolific temple building of these centuries. Unfortunately there is little to illuminate us about the mechanics of such a donation practice.

This relief depicts the frontal face of the owl hieroglyph in remarkably high relief.
Purchased in Egypt from Panayotis Kitycas, 1907. Formerly Timmins Collection.

Lythgoe, Albert M. 1907. "Recent Egyptian Acquisitions." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 12 (December), p. 195.

Capart, Jean 1927. Documents pour servir a l'étude de l'art égyptien. Paris: Les Éditions du Pégase, pp. 88-89, pl. 94d.

Young, Eric 1964. "Sculptors' Models or Votives?: In Defense of a Scholarly Tradition." In The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 22, no. 7 (March), pp. 250–251, 252–255, fig. 9.

Hostens-Deleu, Ria 1979. Beeldhouwersmodellen in de Egyptische afdeling van de Koninklijke Musea voor kunst en Geschiedenis. Brussels, 41.

Arnold, Dorothea 1995. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, new ser., vol. 52, no. 4 (Spring), New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 47, no. 55.

Arnold, Dorothea 2010. "Schleiereule." In Falken, Katzen, Krokodile: Tiere im Alten Ägypten: Aus den Sammlungen des Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, und des Ägyptischen Museums Kairo, edited by Dorothea Arnold. Zurich: Rietberg, Museum, p. 80, no. 77.

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