Egyptian trial piece of the head of a Pharaoh

November 12, 2021


Continuing our fiftieth anniversary, and looking back on items now in public collections, here is one we sold to a major US museum in 2008.

Egyptian trial piece of the head of a Pharaoh
Ptolemaic Period, 305-30 BC
Height 10.2cm

The Pharaoh is shown wearing the nemes headdress with uraeus and ram’s horns above. The upper edge and back are incised with grid-lines, an aid to understanding the proportions of the sculpture.

Private collection, France; acquired in France c.1970

There are two schools of thought regarding the purpose of these types of sculpture. The first is that they were trial or demonstration pieces for a sculptor’s apprentice to copy. The second is that they were votive offerings to the tutelary deity of a particular sacred precinct. However, the numerous examples with grid lines point towards the former explanation, though it has also been argued they fulfilled both functions!

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