Seated Scribe of the Louvre, unknown author, 53 cm. height, (Egyptian Style), Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Art / Esculpture / Egypt style / Seated Scribe of the Louvre


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The famous Seated Scribe of the Louvre Museum in Paris is one of the best-preserved sculptures of ancient Egyptian civilization, and undoubtedly one of the most beautiful known to date. The iconic sculpture belongs to the Old Kingdom of Egypt (2750-2250 BCE) and is considered, along with the Pyramids of Giza or the Great Sphinx, as a masterpiece and representative work of this period. The astonishing polychrome (painted) figure is a vivid example of how Egyptian craftsmen and artists painted their sculptures and monuments to bring them to their fullest glory by providing them with greater realism. One of the features that can be deduced from the also called "Seated Scribe of the Louvre" is its hieratism, that is, the rigidity, immobility, and lack of expressiveness in the gestures, absence of movement and that exterior appearance, so representative of Egyptian art. Its high degree of realism, especially in the face and gaze (thanks to its blue inlaid eyes) and its perfect anatomy in a seated position, make it a fundamental work to understand the art and origin of Egyptian culture.

It is very important to point out that scribes were trained from the age of five, and they were among the few people who knew how to read and write in Ancient Egypt.

The over four-thousand-year-old figure was carved in limestone and later painted to give it a lively and fleshy appearance. The character, with black hair and earthy skin and measuring only 53 cm in height, corresponds to a high-ranking official in the administration and state, undoubtedly one of the most coveted positions in Egyptian society. The beautifully crafted small statue represents a scribe about to write a manuscript on a sheet of papyrus, reflecting his profession in the typical working position, seated, with an upright torso and crossed legs. As if it were a triangle, due to its seated position and crossed legs, the piece forms an imaginary pyramid, with particular importance placed on its frontal view and symmetry, which is only broken by the papyrus scroll and the arrangement of the hands. However, the right hand was supposed to hold a writing tool (presumably a reed pen), which is now lost. With a less athletic anatomy and wide hips revealing its extreme flabbiness and overweight, especially in the chest - a sign of its high social status - the composition is complemented by a semi-circular dark-toned marble base, the seat of the beautiful sculpture that must have adorned some chapel of a temple or sanctuary.

Above, different views (rear and profile) and a detail of the hands holding the papyrus that is about to be written. The artist took extreme care and great delicacy in representing even the nails with great detail. Below, a detail of the eyes.


Limestone, the main material with which the beautiful sculpture was carved, did not prevent the author from adding another series of inlays such as polished rock crystal, also known as quartz, for the eyes - perfectly framed in thin copper sheets - as well as wood for the nipples. Before being polychromed (painted) to give it greater realism, a thin layer of plaster was applied to the sculpture. The features of its face show a very prominent chin and cheekbones, as well as very thin lips. Likewise, the quartz-inlaid eyes give the statue its own authentic life, just as the Rapa Nui would do thousands of years later with white coral plates on the moai of Easter Island. The character wears a loincloth or shenti, made of raw white linen fabric, a kind of short skirt that shows the knees (which contrasts with the skin tone), the usual clothing or uniform of the scribes, true specialists in the profession of writing, undoubtedly one of the most important and respected professions in ancient Egypt. An ancient text from the time called "Satire of the Professions," in contrast to the profession of the farmer, says the following: "...the profession of the scribe is the best of professions. There is nothing like it in the whole country. Dedicate yourselves body and soul to the books! There is nothing better than books! Look, there is no profession without a boss. Except for the scribe. He is the boss".

reconstruccion-necropolis-saqqara-menfis-egipto-escriba-sentado-museo-del-louvre-495 Above, a recreation of the ancient Necropolis of Saqqara, in front of the city of Memphis, where the seated scribe from the Louvre was found. Below, a representative map."

necropolis-de saqqara-menfis-egipto-mapa-map-495

Discovered by Auguste Mariette's team on November 1, 1850, during excavations in the Saqqara necropolis (located on the west bank of the Nile River, opposite the city of Memphis, capital of the Ancient Egyptian Empire), about twenty kilometers from the city of Cairo, the beautiful statue was taken to Paris by the Egyptologist to be part of the prestigious Egyptian collection of the Louvre Museum. At that time, Mariette stated: "This is a painted calcareous statue representing a character seated in the eastern style." Due to its perfect state of preservation, history, and legacy, the Seated Scribe of the Louvre in Paris is considered, along with the Bust of Nefertiti or the famous Abu Simbel Temple, among others, one of the most famous works of art and monuments of Ancient Egypt. We call sculpture the art of modeling clay, carving in stone, wood, or other materials in relief or three dimensions. The work produced by a sculptor is also called sculpture. It is one of the three Fine Arts par excellence in which a sculptor freely expresses himself by creating volumes and shaping spaces.

Location Map: Museum of the Louvre

Entry: The Seated Scribe
Author: Anonymous (unknown)
Style: Egypt (2750-2250 BC)
Date of creation: c. 2480-2350 BC (4th or 5th Dynasty of Egypt)
Materials: Polychromed limestone (painted in bright colors); polished rock crystal and copper sheets for the eyes, wood for the nipples, and marble for the base or pedestal
Dimensions: 53 cm in height
Type: Round or whole sculpture
Function: Funerary character
Alternative names: Seated Scribe of the Louvre
Location: Louvre Museum, Paris, France

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