The Seated Scribe
The sculpture of the Seated Scribe or Squatting Scribe is one of the most important examples of ancient Egyptian art. It represents a figure of a seated scribe at work. The sculpture was discovered at Saqqara in 1850 and dated to the period of the 4th Dynasty, 2620–2500 BCE. It is currently part of a permanent collection of Egyptian antiquities 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. 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.
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.
|A closer look at the Seated Scribe, Louvre|
|Seated Scribe, Smarthistory|
Height: 53.7 cm; width: 44 cm; depth: 35 cm
- Media related to The Seated Scribe at Wikimedia Commons
- Description of the seated scribe on the Louvre Official Site