Statue of Horemhab as a Scribe

Horemhab was a royal scribe and general of the army under King Tutankhamun. He continued to serve during the reign of Aya and eventually succeeded Aya as king. This statue was made before Horemhab ascended the throne. By having himself depicted as a scribe, Horemhab declares himself to be among the elite group of literate individuals, thus following a tradition more than a thousand years old of depicting great officials as men of wisdom and learning.

He sits erect, but relaxed, his gaze slightly down. Across his knees he unrolls a papyrus scroll on which he has composed a hymn to the god Thoth, patron of scribes. A shell containing ink lies on his left knee. Over his left shoulder is a strap with a miniature scribe’s kit attached to each end. A figure of the god Amun is incised on his forearm, perhaps indicating a tattoo.

Horemhab as a Scribe of the King. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 23.10.1
Horemhab as a Scribe of the King. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 23.10.1

In this statue the unlined, youthful face is belied by the potbelly and the folds of flesh beneath the breasts. These artistic conventions indicate that the subject has reached the age of wisdom. Although the scribal pose exhibits the frontal orientation common to all formal Egyptian statues, it may be appreciated more fully as a piece of sculpture in the round since it has no back pillar.

The youthful face reflects the features seen on many statues depicting Tutankhamun (50.6), and the style of this magnificent life-size sculpture retains some of the softness and naturalism of the earlier Amarna period while looking forward to later Ramesside art.

New Kingdom, late 18th Dynasty, reign of Tutankhamun, ca. 1332-1323 BC. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 23.10.1