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The Seated Scribe​, c. 2620-2500 B.C.E.

The Seated Scribe​, c. 2620-2500 B.C.E.


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What Does the Seated Scribe Symbolize? The Answer is Mystifying

The seated scribe is an unknown artifact found in Egypt, which represents a copyist known to make copies of manuscripts and other ancient documents. This structure is made of limestone in the crystalline form. We try to understand the symbolism of this popular seated scribe from Saqqara.

The seated scribe is an unknown artifact found in Egypt, which represents a copyist known to make copies of manuscripts and other ancient documents. This structure is made of limestone in the crystalline form. We try to understand the symbolism of this popular seated scribe from Saqqara.

Mystery Unsolved!

The famous seated scribe is an unknown antiquity which belongs to Egypt, and was discovered on November 19, 1850 by Auguste Mariette, who was the founder of the Egyptian Department of Antiquities.

In ancient Egypt, it was believed that reading and writing imparted wisdom. Everything, right from a curse or a spell to the meals given, was written down as records. A very minute proportion of the population were literate. Thus, the concept of scribes came into existence. Scribe is a term used to describe a person who creates copies of manuscripts. The seated scribe, also called the squatting scribe, is one type of popular ancient Egyptian artifact.

Dating back to the 4th dynasty from the period of 2620-2500 BCE, this artifact was recovered from Saqqara in Lower Egypt. It remained intact because of the dry weather of Egypt. As the name suggests, the sculpture depicts a scribe in a seated or squatting position. He has a sturdy body with legs crossed over each other in such a way that the right leg crosses in front of the left one. This statue sits on a semicircular base which was not found.

Structure of the Seated Scribe

The scribe is wearing an Egyptian hat and has his left hand holding a papyrus whorl or a scroll. While the right hand is in the writing position and seems to be holding some writing equipment which is absent in the artifact. Seated scribe statues were made out of different materials such as black granite and red granite besides commonly used limestone. Many statues of seated scribes have been recovered over the years.

One example of a seated scribe from Egypt is the statue of Amenhotep, who was the son of Hapu and Itu. Amenhotep was an architect, priest, as well as a scribe. He was considered a philosopher after his death for his valuable teachings. Another example can be of Pharaoh Djedefre’s son Setka. Setka’s statue is perhaps one of the oldest statues portraying a scribe. It is made up of polished granite.

Detailed Description of a Seated Scribe Made From Limestone

The eyes of the seated scribe sculpture are quite prominent. They are sculpted out from white-colored magnesite, which has a red venous pattern. The inner part of the eyes are made from rock crystals. While the front of the crystal is polished, the backside is coated by using an organic material. This material acts as a bonding agent and gives the crystal the appearance of an iris. From the intensity of the scribe’s eyes, it can be concluded that they are the most striking feature of his very artistic face. Just above the eyes are the eyebrows, which are painted using black organic color. Besides the eyebrows, the other painted details include eyelids, nostril lines, or any other cosmetic lines. Leaving aside the face, rest of the scribe’s body has a subtle design. The body parts such as arms, fingers, or nails are sculpted very delicately. The clothing of this monument is a white-colored linen kilt which extends from his waist to the knees. The statue has a wide chest.

Importance of the Seated Scribe

The significant details, such as their titles or the era during which the scribes existed, are not known. In addition to this, the sculptor of the scribe is also unknown. However, few assumptions were made based on the fact that the ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife. The statues are considered to belong to individuals from the royal family. Ancient Egyptians considered any statue to be alive. It was believed to contain the essence of an individual after his death and was mainly sculpted for his soul to dwell in it.

This carving of the seated scribe is of great importance in Ancient Egyptian history. Currently, it is placed in the Louvre, at Paris, as a constituent of the antiquities collection. It never ceases to amaze the visitors, no matter how many times it is viewed.


Contents

This painted limestone sculpture represents a man in a seated position, presumably a scribe. The figure is dressed in a white kilt stretched to its knees. It is holding a half rolled papyrus. Perhaps the most striking part aspect of the figure is its face. Its realistic features stand in contrast to perhaps more rigid and somewhat less detailed body. Hands, fingers, and fingernails of the sculpture are delicately modeled. The hands are in writing position. It seems that the right hand was holding a brush, now missing. The body is sturdy with a broad chest. The nipples are marked with two wooden stubs.

Special attention was devoted to the eyes of the sculpture. They are modeled in rich detail out of pieces of red-veined white magnesite which were elaborately inlaid with pieces of polished truncated rock crystal. The back side of the crystal was covered with a layer of organic material which at the same time gives the color to the iris and serves as an adhesive. Two copper clips hold each eye in place. The eyebrows are marked with fine lines of dark organic paint.


Seated Scribe, funerary statue found in an Old Kingdom necropolis, probably made around 2620-2500 B.C.E. This sculpture breaks from the rigidness and formality of the Egyptian canon of proportions that characterized Old Kingdom Egyptian art.[2592 × 3888]

I remember studying this piece for my art history class. It's been a few years, but if I recall correctly, this piece is notable for several reasons, chief among them being that the figure is seated (when most artistic portrayals were standing tall to project power), a scribe (a lowly subject matter that is out of place in a repertoire consisting primarily of pharaohs and gods), and pudgy (in an artistic culture where idealization of the human form was the standard, particularly when portraying larger-than-life characters such as pharaohs and gods).

Was it near anything else important? Like was this the favorite scribe of someone else and he wanted a copy of him for the afterlife or something?

To be fair, the subject is only presumed to be a scribe.

But it also must be said that, at the time, scribing was a prestigious "white-collar" profession — a member of the literate, intellectual elite in an otherwise largely illiterate world. There's no accurate modern professional parallel, but I tend to think of scribes not as secretaries, but more like top-level bureaucrats or bigshot famous attorneys.

Now if the subject is not, in fact, a member of the royal family, then the bare fact that he was worthy of a statue of this superb quality demonstrates that he was an extraordinary person of profound importance to the king & state — probably along the lines of Egypt's other celebrated polymaths like Imhotep or Amonhotep son of Hapu.

In other words, you may be looking at the Old Kingdom's Albert Einstein or William Shakespeare.


The Seated Scribe, 4th or 5th dynasty (c. 2450–2325 BCE to 2620–2500 BCE)

The sculpture of the Seated Scribe or Squatting Scribe is a famous work of ancient Egyptian art. It represents a figure of a seated scribe at work. The sculpture was discovered at Saqqara, north of the alley of sphinxes leading to the Serapeum of Saqqara, in 1850 and dated to the period of the Old Kingdom, from either the 5th Dynasty, c. 2450–2325 BCE or the 4th Dynasty, 2620–2500 BCE. It is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

This painted limestone sculpture represents a man in a seated position, presumably a scribe. The figure is dressed in a white kilt stretched to its knees. It is holding a half rolled papyrus. Perhaps the most striking part aspect of the figure is its face. Its realistic features stand in contrast to perhaps more rigid and somewhat less detailed body. Hands, fingers, and fingernails of the sculpture are delicately modeled. The hands are in writing position.

Special attention was devoted to the eyes of the sculpture. They are modeled in rich detail out of pieces of red-veined white magnesite which were elaborately inlaid with pieces of polished truncated rock crystal. The back side of the crystal was covered with a layer of organic material which at the same time gives the blue colour to the iris and serves as an adhesive. Two copper clips hold each eye in place. The eyebrows are marked with fine lines of dark organic paint.

The scribe has a soft and slightly overweight body, suggesting he is well off and does not need to do any sort of physical labor. He sits in a cross-legged position that would have been his normal posture at work. His facial expression is alert and attentive, gazing out to the viewer as though he is waiting for them to start speaking. He has a ready-made papyrus scroll laid out on his lap but the reed-brush used to write is missing. Both his hands are positioned on his lap. His right hand is pointing towards the paper as if he has already started to write while watching others speak. He stares calmly at the viewer with his black outlined eyes.

It is a painted limestone statue, the eyes inlaid with rock crystal, magnesite (magnesium carbonate), copper-arsenic alloy, and nipples made of wood.

The sculpture of the seated scribe was discovered in Saqqara on 19 November 1850, to the north of the Serapeum's line of sphinxes by French archeologist Auguste Mariette. The precise location remains unknown, as the document describing these excavations was published posthumously and the original excavation journal has been lost.

The identity of the person represented remains unknown. The semicircular base of the sculpture suggests that it originally fitted in a larger piece of rock which presumably carried its name and title. This somewhat unusual pose was, it seems, reserved for members of the immediate royal family, although not for the king himself. The statue was dated to the period of the 4th Dynasty, 2620–2500 BC, and is usually associated to the person of Pehernefer. Certain stylistic characteristics, unusual thin lips, broad chest and the posture of the torso might support this theory. The dating itself remains uncertain the period of the 6th Dynasty has also been suggested. One additional fact in favor of the earlier date is that the statue is represented in "writing" position while it seems that scribes from the period after the 5th Dynasty have been portrayed mainly in "reading" position.

The Seated Scribe was made around 2450–2325 BCE it was discovered near a tomb made for an official named Kai and is sculpted from limestone. Many pharaohs and high-ranking officials would have their servants depicted in some form of image or sculpture so that when they went to the afterlife they would able to utilize their skills to help them in their second life. The scribes were some of the very few who knew how to read and write, and were highly regarded and well-paid. Most people were peasant farmers who had no need for literacy, and "although some members of the royal family and high status individuals, as well as officials, priests, and army officers were literate, scribes were needed for operations of the state at all levels." Scribes were used for multitude of things involving everyday Egyptian life, they would be used as tax collectors and were in charge of organizing personnel for activities such as mining, trade and war. Scribes were also used to work on projects like pyramid building and helped communicate between the rulers and the Egyptian people.


This painted limestone sculpture represents a man in a seated position, presumably a scribe. The figure is dressed in a white kilt stretched to its knees. It is holding a half rolled papyrus. Perhaps the most striking part aspect of the figure is its face. Its realistic features stand in contrast to perhaps more rigid and somewhat less detailed body. Hands, fingers, and fingernails of the sculpture are delicately modeled. The hands are in writing position.

Special attention was devoted to the eyes of the sculpture. They are modeled in rich detail out of pieces of red-veined white magnesite which were elaborately inlaid with pieces of polished truncated rock crystal. The back side of the crystal was covered with a layer of organic material which at the same time gives the blue colour to the iris and serves as an adhesive. Two copper clips hold each eye in place. The eyebrows are marked with fine lines of dark organic paint.

The scribe has a soft and slightly overweight body, suggesting he is well off and does not need to do any sort of physical labor. He sits in a cross-legged position that would have been his normal posture at work. His facial expression is alert and attentive, gazing out to the viewer as though he is waiting for them to start speaking. He has a ready-made papyrus scroll laid out on his lap but the reed-brush used to write is missing. [1] Both his hands are positioned on his lap. His right hand is pointing towards the paper as if he has already started to write while watching others speak. He stares calmly at the viewer with his black outlined eyes.


Sculpture Eye-crafting Techniques: The Piercing Gazes that brought life to sculptures

Historically, several cultures have come up with some very ingenious solutions for how to bring more life to the eyes of their sculptures. Ancient Greeks would assemble eyes from copper, glass and/or shell, and anchor them from the inside of a hollow bronze head. Ancient Greek bronzesmiths had a variety of techniques at their disposal to enhance the appearance of their creations. Due to their often fragmentary state of preservation, the modern observer tends to think of early Greek bronzes as monochromatic, but it is clear that the practice of inlaying other materials into bronze started early in ancient Greece.

Inlays appear in a broad variety of bronze object types from weapons and armor to vessels and jewelry to relief-decorated objects and figural sculpture. Many of the finest early Greek bronzes were embellished with inlays that enlivened the sculptural forms and may have added symbolic or even magical qualities. Eyes were often given particular prominence with inlays. Of special interest is a new technical analysis of a Late Geometric statuette of a man and a centaur (Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. 17.190.2072) in which the eyes of the man were inlaid with silver to contrast with the eyes of the centaur, which appear to have an iron-rich inlay. Although the evidence is frequently incomplete, it is clear that a wide variety of colorful inlays such as gold, silver, iron, bone, ivory, and amber were utilized, and other materials, such as stone and shell, were certainly used as well.

Another great sculpture with eyes tha magnetize everyone who looks at them is Iniochos (Charioteer of Delphi). It has its own room in the museum of Delphi, and a quick glance is not enough to see it. You have to look at it closely from all sides and admire the multitude of details on its body and its bronze tunic. The eyes of Iniochos look alive, and perhaps no other statue gives this unique feeling. White enamel was used for the eyeballs to make them look exactly like a natural human eye. For the iris, brown semi-precious stone was used, while the pupils of the eyes are black. The eyelashes were made of small copper wires, while its lips were made of thin reddish copper plates.

Detail of the Iniochos statue's head, showing the inlaid eyes.

The Egyptians combined materials of alabaster, rock crystal & copper, and inserted them from the outside of the face to bring vitality to their sculptures and busts. There are early examples of Egyptian statues in which the inlaid eyes are either blue or grey in colour. Some epictions of deities such as Horus showed them with eyes that had a blue pupil. A range of materials are known to have been used depending on the desired effect and perhaps the situation, location and purpose for which the eye, and its artifact, were created to represent. Those eyes, for example, include the use of materials such as limestone, quartz, rock crystal, obsidian, bone and ivory, copper alloys, resin, plaster, animal glue and pigments. What is surprising is the recognition of what exquisite craft skill and technology are implied by the use of such crystal for the eyes of these statues.

Ancient Egyptian inlaid eye: (top) view of the eye from below (bottom) x-radiograph of the eye from the same position, showing some of the technical features.

The sculpture of the Seated Scribe or Squatting Scribe is one of these famous works of ancient Egyptian art. It represents a figure of a seated scribe at work. The sculpture was discovered at Saqqara and dated to the period of the Old Kingdom, from either the 5th Dynasty, c. 2450–2325 BCE or the 4th Dynasty, 2620–2500 BCE. It is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. It is a painted limestone statue, the eyes inlaid with rock crystal, magnesite (magnesium carbonate), copper-arsenic alloy, and nipples made of wood.

Detail of inlaid eye belonging to the "Seated Scribe”.

The Chinese would position small obsidian beads in the center of the eyes, (a technique which was sometimes also seen in Japan during the Asuka and Nara periods (combined 538-974). In the late Heian period (974-1185), however, a new process for infusing a startlingly realistic quality into the eyes of sculpture elevated Japanese Buddhist statuary to new heights.

In the early periods of Japanese art history, eyes were simply carved into the wood (and then painted). This way of depicting a sculpted eye is called chougan(彫眼), and examples of this can be seen in many temples throughout Japan. However, when visiting a temple with carvings that have crystal eyes, it is impossible to ignore the intimacy of the statuary’s pensive gaze or piercing glare. This style of eye-crafting is called gyokugan(玉眼).

Left: Twenty-Eight Attendants (Basu Sennin) Sanjusangendo. Right: photo by David Bilbrey, Sculptor and Art History hound.

In 1151, an Amida Triad in the Chougakuji was the first in Japan to employ gyokugan. The technology behind this craft can simply and casually be described as an eyeball sandwich. The būshi of the Chougakuji’s Amida group carved rock crystal into a lens, painted the inside with a pupil & iris, backed it with paper, and then inserted it into an uchiguri (hollowed-out) head. The result was revolutionary. Made more famous by the Kei school about 30 years later, this technique became the sculpting standard which further set Japanese butsuzo apart from what was happening with the rest of the world.


History

The sculpture of the seated scribe was discovered in Saqqara on 19 November 1850, to the north of the Serapeum's line of sphinxes by French archeologist Auguste Mariette. Precise location remains unknown as the document describing these excavations was published posthumously and excavation journal has been lost.

The identity of the person represented remains unknown. Semicircular base of the sculpture suggests that it originally fitted in a larger piece of rock which presumably carried its name and title. This somewhat unusual pose was, it seems, reserved for members of immediate royal family, although not for king himself. The statue was dated to the period of 4th Dynasty, 2620-2500 BC, and is usually associated to the person of Pehernefer. Certain stylistic characteristics, unusual thin lips, broad chest and posture of the torso might support this theory. The dating itself remains uncertain as period of 6th dynasty has also been suggested. One additional fact in favor of the earlier date is that statue is represented in “writing” position while it seems that scribes from the period after the 5th dynasty have been portrayed mainly in “reading” position.


Art Styles In Greek Art

where the artist create more realistic human forms using more colorful and ornate Egyptian influences such as placement of the feet and applying a colored glaze. During this period black and red contrasts added to create designs in pottery for color contrast. The men were often painted black and the women was commonly painted white. Majority of the bronze sculptures that were ever created no longer exist having been melted down for reuse. The next period is of the Classical Period, this is the era which people often think of when they mention Greek Art.&hellip


Gibby's AP Art History

Mckenna:
Form- Made using limestone that was then painted.
Function-Was created for a tomb at Saqqara to house the soul, or Ka.
Content-Is a scribe that holds papyrus in his lap, it seems as if he is waiting for a pharaoh to speak so he can write down the words.
Context- Was created during the 4th dynasty, the old kingdom, in ancient Egypt.

-Katherine
Form- Painted with red black, and white ocher.
Function- Created as a funerary sculpture.
Content- Complete symmetry to the body, aside from his hands.
Context- Scribes were apart of a very small elite that could read and write, and were often in charge of important activities.

Nandini
Form:Irises are made of crystal which makes the eyes look very realistic
Function: To commemorate the life of the scribe
Content: He is depicted as pudgy and with saggy skin as compared to sculptures of pharaohs which are often shown as young and youthful.
Context: The writing instrument that he would have held has been lost


Watch the video: The Seated Scribe (May 2022).