Middle Kingdom head of a man

This head of a man dates from the Middle Kingdom period and is very recognizable by the characteristics of the face. Here we see a style of portraiture that began with the reign of Senwosret III. The face is no longer a smooth serene idealistic depiction, but a detailed lined face with frown lines, sunken cheeks and character. This style became popular among those wealthy enough to afford statues of themselves, following royal conventions.
The overly large ears were a Middle Kingdom characteristic. Scholars tend to believe the choice for such enlarged ears was not just superficial or stylistic choice, it was to indicate the king’s ability to hear conspirators across the kingdom or known world. This would make sense, as the collapse of the Old Kingdom was still in mind and Egypt had to maintain a sense of stability to reassure the people and itself that such a collapse would never occur again.

Senwosret III’s portraits usually show him with similar features and facial characteristics, but with a slight frown, whereas this man is seemingly smiling. The Walters Art Museum rightfully describes the piece and smile as, “lending it an air of dignified confidence“.

Middle Kingdom head of a man
Dimensions: 7 7/8 x 9 1/16 x 6 1/8 in. (20 x 23 x 15.5 cm)
Walters Art Museum. 22.402

The location of where this head was discovered is unknown, however, it was acquired by Henry Walters in 1924 and now resides at the Walters Art Museum in Maryland, USA. It is made of granodiorite.

Head of a man
Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, reign of Senwosret III or later, c. 1837-1760 B.C.
Province unknown.
Now at the Walters Art Museum. 22.402