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tudies in

onor of

illiam elly impson
Volume 1

Peter Der Manuelian Editor Rita E. Freed Project Supervisor
Department of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1996

Front jacket illustration: The Ptolemaic Pylon at the Temple of Karnak, Thebes, looking north. Watercolor over graphite by Charles Gleyre (1806–1874). Lent by the Trustees of theLowell Institute. MFA 161.49. Photograph courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Back jacket illustration: Palm trees at the Temple of Karnak, Thebes. Watercolor over graphite by Charles Gleyre. Lent by the Trustees of the Lowell Institute. MFA 157.49. Photograph courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Endpapers: View of the Giza Pyramids, looking west. Graphite drawing by Charles Gleyre. Lent by theTrustees of the Lowell Institute. MFA 79.49. Photograph courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Frontispiece: William Kelly Simpson at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1985 Title page illustration: A document presenter from the Old Kingdom Giza mastaba chapel of Merib (g 2100–1), north entrance thickness (Ägyptisches Museum Berlin, Inv. Nr. 1107); drawing by Peter Der Manuelian

Typeset in Adobe TrumpMediaeval and Syntax. Title display type set in Centaur Egyptological diacritics designed by Nigel Strudwick Hieroglyphic fonts designed by Cleo Huggins with additional signs by Peter Der Manuelian Jacket design by Lauren Thomas and Peter Der Manuelian

Edited, typeset, designed and produced by Peter Der Manuelian

Copyright © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1996 All rights reserved. No part ofthis publication may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher

isbn 0-87846-390-9

Printed in the United States of America by Henry N. Sawyer Company, Charlestown, Massachusetts Bound by Acme Bookbinding, Charlestown,Massachusetts

Preservation and Presentation of Self in Ancient Egyptian Portraiture

Jan Assmann


n 1988, when W. Kelly Simpson invited me to teach at Yale for a couple of weeks and when I was preparing a lecture on Egyptian portraiture, I had the opportunity to discuss this topic with Kelly and to profit from his great knowledge and infallible judgment. I thought it appropriate, therefore,to contribute a version of this lecture to his Festschrift, in affectionate memory of his hospitality and our many conversations on Egyptian art, literature and other subjects.1

1. Sculptural and inscriptional self-thematization Portraiture is by far the most important and productive genre of Egyptian art, just as biography is the most ancient and productive genre of Egyptian literature. Bothgenres are self-thematizations2 of an individual subject, one in the medium of art, the other in the medium of language. To be sure, the Egyptian portraits are not self-portraits in our sense of the term, nor are the biographical inscriptions autobiographies in our sense. It is not the self of an artist or writer which is revealed by a statue or speaking in an inscription, but the self of thepatron, who had the portrait sculptured or the inscription carved. What matters is the “self” that gives the order, not the one that executes it. I shall use the term “selfthematization” for every kind of sculpture, relief or inscription representing such an order-giving individual. By using the term portraiture in this sense of self-thematization, we are spared the thankless task of discussingwhether there is any “real” portraiture or biography in ancient Egypt. In this essay, the focus is shifted from the sculptor to the model. Consequently, we can dispense with the anachronistic idea of “artists”

wish to thank Dr. Christine Lilyquist for the invitation to deliver a lecture on Egyptian portraiture at the MMA, New York, on Sept. 25, 1988, and my friend Dr. Dorothea Arnold for her...