Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Face of Tutankhamun

I have written it here and elsewhere that the best way to know how a king of Egypt really looked is to see his face as substituted for those of his servants and nobles.  The above is supposed to be the head of a statue of Paramessu, a northern vizier of Tutankhamun who eventually became pharaoh as Ramesses I.  Even though this stone face is less than perfectly intact, it is easy to see that it actually belongs to the boy-king Paramessu served.  In these "substitution portraits", which were a very common way to show ones loyalty to the ruler in the New Kingdom, the artists did not bother to flatter the pharaoh nearly as much as they did in his own official images.  Therefore, the above rendering of the young Tutankhamun is about as faithful a portrait as would have been made of him in antiquity and it compares very well to the face of his mummy.  Notable are the almond eyes with their heavy lids and the thick lips that close with difficulty over the large, protruding front teeth.  Click on the image for a larger view.


Charles Franklin said...

Interesting, considering most of ancient Egypain art was created to put the most pleasing face of royalty and nobility...We would like to hear more about these "substitution potraits" if you have any more information..

P.S. Also, who owns the picture..Would we be interested in posting this on our site for debate..

Charles Franklin
Museum Africa
Chief Operating Officer

Anonymous said...

Why is this piece attributed to Paramessu, is there any inscription or part of it left?
Is the provenance known and where (if at all) is it on display?
More a string of questions than a comment, but I have seen this piece for the first time and really would like to know more about it.