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Statuette of Nedjemu

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When creating the Statuette of Nedjemu, the artist tries to represent the deceased in a manner appropriate for eternity. By using Old Kingdom funerary sculpture conventions, the artist achieves the goal of creating a sculpture suitable for placement in a tomb.

The artist who created the Statuette of Nedjemu is unknown. The artist was from the Old Kingdom, Dynasty V, approximately 2500-2350 BC. Although entitled the Statuette of Nedjemu, the figure portrayed may not actually be Nedjemu.

“This little statuette was probably a quick, “off-the-shelf” purchase after Nedjemu’s death.” Claims the University of Memphis.

Regardless of who the figure is, the hieroglyphs at the bottom of the base says that the statue was purchased for Nedjemu’s tomb by his son.

This work does not have a specific date, however its time period is the Old Kingdom, c. 2500-2350 BC. The Statuette of Nedjemu is a freestanding sculpture in the round. This sculpture was made out of limestone, a material found in abundance in Egypt.

Although I am unable to find the dimensions of the Statuette, I believe it is little as Statuette implies.

The original location of this limestone sculpture was Giza, in Nedjemu’s tomb. This work has since been removed and relocated to The University of Memphis Egyptian Antiquities Museum.

At present, the work is in good condition. Although the Statuette may have been brightly colored at one point, all that remains of color are traces of reddish brown paint on the legs of the Statuette.

The subject of this Old Kingdom sculpture is the King’s scribe and messenger, Nedjemu. Nedjemu, meaning “sweet one” was also the overseer of the granaries on the western border of Egypt.

This sculpture is not an event from history or a scene from daily life. This statue is more of a portrait, but does not depict Nedjemu as he was when he died. This sculpture displays Nedjemu according to Egyptian funerary conventions of the Old Kingdom.

The overall mood of the work is calm, timeless, and peaceful, the goal of all Old Kingdom funerary sculptures.

Standing erect, the figure is posed on top of a limestone block inscribed with hieroglyphics. The figure is based on a vertical line and is symmetrical. The arrangement of limbs shows the figure as static and timeless.

The figure is not displayed as part of a landscape.

There is detail all around the sculpture. The artist was more concerned with organic, volumetric form, rather that flat patterns geometric in shape.

As the name implies, the Statuette of Nedjemu is figurative . The figure portrayed was sculpted according to the artistic conventions of Old Kingdom funerary sculpture.

His body shows the use of the cannon of proportion using an eighteen square grid.

The Statuette of Nedjemu is rigidly frontal; the arms are held close to the well-built body, with a small peg being held in each hand. The University of Memphis believes that the two small pegs are “abbreviated scepters as symbols of public office.”

Nedjemu’s left leg is moved slightly forward, but there seems to be no shift in the hips, legs, or knees to compensate for the uneven distribution of the weight displaced by moving the left leg forward.

This convention of the Old Kingdom created a sense of timelessness in the static, closed form of the sculpture. This convention is favored by the Egyptians not only because it gives the impression of timelessness, but also because of the idealized image that is shows. This idealized image shows the deceased as confident, young, and healthy. It also suggests “movement and strength.”

At one time, the figure may have been brightly colored, however, all that remains are traces of reddish brown paint on the legs. The reddish brown color was the color that male figures were painted. Female figures were painted a milky white

Nedjemu is shown wearing a wraparound kilt that would probably have been made out of unbleached linen, a product of flax. Vertical lines are chiseled into the sides of the kilt, creating the illusion of the layering of a wraparound kilt.

His sculpted hair is a series of round bumps, creating the illusion of curly hair. On each side, the scribe’s curly hair covers his ears.

The shape of the body and head is cylindrical. All of the facial features are visible from the sides of the statue, enhancing the sense of being three dimensional.

This sculpture was carved out of limestone. The Statuette of Nedjemu is a freestanding sculpture in the round.

The Statuette of Nedjemu, the King’s scribe, is not monumental; it is a small figurine placed in his tomb. The sculpture is static and closed form. The texture of the sculpture overall is that of weathered limestone. In a few areas such as the hair and kilt, the texture is manipulated to create the illusion of dense curly hair and a layered wrap around kilt.

Although the sculpture can be viewed from any angle or side, it was meant to be viewed from the front. It was placed on a small base inscribed with hieroglyphics and probably intended to be viewed at eye level of the viewer.

The artist who created the Statuette of Nedjemu used formal aspects to their greatest advantage when creating the tomb sculpture. The overall mood created by the artist is appropriate for the funerary theme. The stylized figure painted reddish brown adequately conveys the feeling of timelessness, calmness, and confidence.

The function of this work is solely funerary. This object was created to represent the dead and to be placed in a tomb. It is also possible that the Statuette of Nedjemu may have been used as a home for Nedjemu’s spirit, or ka. Because of the timelessness of the statue, the spirit could always come back to the figurine if unable to return to the body of the deceased. In its current location, the statue does not serve as a home for the ka or as a funerary sculpture. In its present location, the Statuette of Nedjemu is housed inside of a museum in Memphis, Tennessee, representing sculptures similar in form and function. The patron of this work were both Nedjemu and his son. His son had purchased it “off the shelf” and had hieroglyphics inscribed on the base of it for his father. The message portrayed though this sculpture was that of a young, confident, and healthy Nedjemu. Rather than portraying him realistically at the time of his death, he was shown adhering to the artistic conventions of Egyptian artists.

The artist achieved his goal of creating a stylized sculpture for the occasion. This is achieved by posing the youthful and well-built body in a closed form and static pose. The staticness was further enhanced by moving the left foot forward and keeping the arms rigidly held to the body. This Egyptian sculpture is also appropriate for the occasion with its calm, yet confident demeanor and the overall sense of timelessness as favored by the Egyptians.

Works Cited:

Egyptian Artifacts Exhibit. Pamphlet. Memphis: University of Memphis, 1996

Gardner’s. Art Through the Ages. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace, 1996

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