Exquisite Red Jasper Head
Period: New Kingdom, 1295-1070 B.C.
Dimensions: H: 2 cm
Ex- American private collection.
San Diego Museum of Man, California, 1968, (M 201)
This head was part of a small statuette; given the material used and the artistic quality, it would have belonged to a composite ushabti of a prominent person in the Egyptian society of the
The neck and the face are made of a beautiful red jasper, and the entire head was originally composed of black hair carved from a small fragment of steatite (missing here). The fine rendering of the broad, almost circular face is remarkable and accurate, despite the formal stylization. The almond-shaped eyes are highlighted by the incised arches of the eyebrows and the thin line of the makeup; the nose is wide and prominent; the cheekbones are high, the lips are thin. Despite its miniature size, the image is very carefully depicted.
The piece relates to a specific type of the iconography of ushabtis, funerary servants, who, rather than being simply wrapped in their mummy bandages and wearing the tripartite wig, were dressed in the style of the living (they wore a long-sleeved tunic with a pleated kilt and sported this hairstyle).
Even at the peak of the New Kingdom, the use of jasper for sculpted objects was exceptional in the Egyptian world and most likely restricted to the small circle of the Royal court. Very few examples have survived up to today.