The Seated Scribe

The Louvre’s scribe, known as the “Seated Scribe”, is indeed sitting cross-legged, his right leg crossed in front of his left. The white kilt, stretched over his knees, serves as a support. He is holding a partially rolled papyrus scroll in his left hand. His right hand must have held a brush, now missing. 

The cross-legged figure known as the ‘Seated Scribe’ and depicted in the process of writing is a masterpiece of Egyptian art. The exceptional quality of the statue indicates that it represented a high dignitary. The Scribe’s fame is due in great part to his compelling gaze. His eyes are inlaid with rock crystal and seem to sparkle with life. Come and see for yourself: if you keep your eye on him as you walk around the display case, you’ll get a sense that he’s watching you too!

The Seated Scribe
The Seated Scribe (detail)

“Every visitor to the Louvre has seen the statue of the Egyptian scribe, squatting on his haunches, almost completely nude… He keeps record of work done and goods paid, of prices and costs, of profits and loss; he counts the cattle as they move to the slaughter, or corn as it is measured out in sale; he draws up contracts and wills, and makes out his master’s income-tax; verily there is nothing new under the sun.

He is sedulously attentive and mechanically industrious; he has just enough intelligence not to be dangerous. His life is monotonous, but he consoles himself by writing essays on the hardships of the manual worker’s existence, and the princely dignity of those whose food is paper and whose blood is ink.”

The Story of Civilization: Part 1, by Will Durant, Simon and Schuster, New York, USA, 1976

The Seated Scribe
The Seated Scribe

The most striking aspect of this sculpture is the face, particularly the elaborately inlaid eyes: they consist of a piece of red-veined white magnesite, in which a piece of slightly truncated rock crystal was placed.

From Saqqara Necropolis. Old Kingdom, 4th-5th Dynasty, ca. 2600-2350 BC. Now in the Louvre, Paris. Room 635, Sully wing, Level 1. E 3023