Egyptian Feet Fragment
Ancient Egyptian sculpture fragment, painted limestone, likely Old Kingdom, circa 2686-2181 B.C. The four-inch wide feet once were the base of a portrait statue, a private sculpture to honor an important man. Perhaps they once carried the likeness of a granary official, scribe, or palace functionary. It does not matter. Whoever he was, his stone body long crumbled to dust. But his feet still seem to stand for something. Self-assured, defiant, futile: they bear a nameless weight.
The artifact came from the collection of Joseph Lindon Smith (1863-1950), an American painter who worked extensively on archeological expeditions in Egypt in the early twentieth century. Dr. George Reisner – professor of Egyptology at Harvard University and curator of Egyptian collections at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – commissioned Smith to document the fragile wall paintings inside newly discovered tombs. Seeing daylight for the first time in millenia, the polychrome painted walls quickly began to fade with the changes in atmosphere. With paintbrush in hand, Smith raced against time to document the fading frescos, and his paintings capturing ancient Egyptian art destroyed by the act of discovery remain the best documentation of these fragile antiquities (scroll for example).
The statue fragment here came from Smith’s private collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts, likely found on an expedition a century ago. This chunk of limestone, those peeling painted walls, even Smith’s hasty paintings to preserve them: all feeble, but seemingly necessary attempts to thwart time and oblivion. Looking down, we are pleased to see ourselves standing on a permanent foundation, our identity secure above feet comfortably carved in stone. But the support under our heels has crumbled away to void, and whether we know it our not, we are not standing but tumbling backwards, falling without end.
4 inches wide
2.5 inches deep
1.5 inches tall
Carved limestone fragment still retaining traces of pigment.
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