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Work The Scribe Nebmerutef
Department of Egyptian Antiquities: The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)
The Scribe Nebmerutef
© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet
The New Kingdom (circa 1550 to circa 1069 BC)
This small group shows a high-ranking scribe at work, reading an unrolled papyrus. He is under the protection of the god Thoth, patron of the scribes, represented in his animal form as a baboon. The inscriptions identify him as Nebmerutef, known to have been an important figure at the time of Amenophis III. The piece is a good example of the mannered style characteristic of his reign.
A high official is portrayed in the attitude of a scribe, under the attentive gaze of the god Thoth, patron of writing. He is engrossed in reading a document, seated cross-legged on the ground, with his torso leaning slightly forward, and his right hand resting on the papyrus. He wears a short-sleeved shirt, which falls down over a loincloth knotted at the waist. In accordance with the fashion of the time, his delicately carved curls can be seen beneath the radiating tresses of the wig. Above him, the baboon sacred to Thoth is seated on a pedestal; the damaged muzzle emerges from a broad ruff, while the upper part of the body is covered in thick fur. Between the scribe and the baboon-god stands an offering table.
Inscriptions identify the figures and indicate their relationship. Nebmerutef was at the same time chancellor, royal scribe and high priest. He asks the baboon that he might benefit from the food deposited in the sacred precinct to nourish his own body. The purpose of this small stone sculpture was to give perpetual, timeless form to his request for food.
Nebmerutef was a high official in the reign of Amenophis III. As such, he enjoyed very special royal favor in being allowed to deposit his statue in the god's own temple - probably at Hermopolis, the most important sanctuary of Thoth. God of knowledge, science and wisdom, he was the patron of scholars and high administrative officials, who drew inspiration from him. It is something new for a courtier to foster a personal relationship between himself and the god, by having himself portrayed alongside Thoth.
Nebmerutef is also depicted on a wall of the temple of Amenophis III at Soleb. Close to the king, he is shown taking part in the jubilee celebrations, alongside the greatest figures of the realm. The graywacke stone, selected for its color and the fine grain that allowed great precision in carving, is a noble material. Sculpted in the royal workshops, this "portrait" of the scribe is modeled on portraits of the king, as the only possible source of reference: the narrow, almond-shaped eyes, accentuated by a cosmetic line that extends as far as the temples, and the youthful air of the face, are all features taken from statues of Amenophis III himself.
Thanks to the king's generosity, Nebmerutef was also able to have himself portrayed in a second sculpture, similar in composition, carved in costly white alabaster. Today these stand side by side in the same display-case.
BibliographyDELANGE (LE SCRIBE NEBMEROUTEF, 1996, P. 5 A 47, ETUDE COMPLETE) -
- ZIEGLER ET BOVOT (L'EGYPTE ANCIENNE, 2001, P. 192, 193, FIG. 98, PHOTO COULEURS, COMMENTAIRE) -
ANDREU ET RUTSCHOWSKAYA ET ZIEGLER (L'EGYPTE ANCIENNE AU LOUVRE, 1997, P. 122, 252, PHOTO COULEURS, BBLIOGRAPHIE, NOTICE 52) -
CATALOGUE (AMENOPHIS III, LE PHARAON SOLEIL, 1993, P. 206 A 207, NOTICE, PHOTO COULEURS) -
CATALOGUE (PORTRAITS DU LOUVRE, TOKYO, 1991, P. 65, NOTICE, PHOTO COULEURS) -
CATALOGUE (MEMOIRES D'EGYPTE, STRASBOURG, 1990, P. 109, PHOTO COULEURS) -
CATALOGUE (LA NAISSANCE DE L'ECRITURE, GRAND PALAIS, PARIS, 1982, NOTICE NO 286, PHOTO)
LECLANT ED. (UNIVERS DES FORMES, L'EMPIRE DES CONQUERANTS, 1979, T. II, P. 164, FIG. 152, COMMENTAIRE, PHOTO)
The Scribe Nebmerutef
New Kingdom, Eighteenth Dynasty, reign of Amenophis III (1391-1353 BC)
Sculpture (in the round) with incised detail, in graywacke
H. 19.50 cm; W. 20.50 cm; D. 8.50 cm
The New Kingdom
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