Statue of a Priest

Wen-amun Son of Nes-ba-neb-dedet and Ta-sherit-Khonsu


Owner: The Brooklyn Museum
Object Date: 50 BCE
Provenance: Egyptian, purchased in 1914 by Kidran G. Kelekian in Luxor and then purchased by the museum in 1936
Materials: stone
Dimensions: 39.3 x 18.5 x 12.3 cm

The object is a carved statue made from a beige stone with no visible grain. The rest of the stone has a grey and black speckled pattern, possibly from some type of biological growth. The stone was previously identified as a crystalline limestone, but further testing and examination would be needed for a definitive identification. It is a sculpture of a man striding with his proper left foot stepped forward. The man’s arms are straight down by his sides with his fists clenched and holding cylindrical objects. The man is wearing a carved wrapped kilt and a plinth extends from the base through the opening between his legs and extends as a pillar up his back side. On the pillar there are inscribed hieroglyphics. The accession number is painted in red directly onto the stone on the rear side of the base on the bottom proper right.

The object is overall in good, stable condition. The head of the figure is missing and the object is broken into three pieces which have been repaired. The top portion appears slightly more saturated than the other pieces, which may suggest the sections of the sculpture existed in different locations for a portion of their history. The lower break extends from the figure’s proper right ankle across the plinth to the proper left knee and across the plinth back around to the proper right ankle. The second break is above and extends most of the way through the back of the pillar and back up to behind the figure’s proper right knee, across the proper right shin and back down to the ankle where it meets the lower break.

The large cracks were filled and toned during the 2016 treatment, however, there are small visible losses along the break edges on the pillar in the areas that were carved with hieroglyphics. Just above the center fragment there is loss on the proper right edge of the pillar, and another closer to the waist of the figure also on the proper right side.

There is a loss on the corner of the proper right side of the pillar closest to where the head of the figure once was. There is a small chip towards the rear edge on the top of the proper left side of the base, and another small one towards the front on the same side. There are two small chips on the proper right side of the base on the side. On the front side of the base there is a chip on the center top edge and the bottom proper left corner is missing. All of these losses were documented in the most recent report.  

There is evidence that the sculpture once had a surface accretion and there are tool marks visible in areas particularly within the recesses in an attempt to remove it. There is a white dusty material visible within the interstices and hieroglyphic carvings that could possibly be from burial.

Historical Context:
It is not known exactly where the object was discovered, but it is believed to have been from Karnak cachette. It was purchased in 1914 by Kidran G. Kelekian in Luxor and then the museum purchased it from him in 1936 (TMS Text Entry). Ancient Egyptian objects are known to have been intentionally damaged along the knees to instill a physical handicap and magically deny the figure the use of their feet (Friedman 1998, 25). It is quite possible that this particular object was intentionally damaged for this reason.

Friedman, Florence D., Georgina Borromeo, and Mimi Leveque. 1998. Gifts of the Nile: ancient Egyptian faience. New York: Thames and Hudson.


UV Examination:
Ultraviolet light examination was carried out with the LED ultraviolet Labino Torchlight UVG3, with 365nm output (midlight >6500µw/cm2 at 15”). There is an orange haze that fluoresces over the entire sculpture, particularly on the back of the pillar. The white powder that is visible in the interstices fluoresces white. The dark spots on the stone highly absorb the ultra violet light. There are some areas that fluoresce white along the break edges that are likely an old adhesive and the inpainting on the fill strongly absorbs the ultra violet light. The old fill on the pillar fluoresces white.

Microchemical Spot Tests:
The surface of the object was tested for chlorides, nitrates, and sulfates using Whatman’s filter paper soaked in deionized water and applied to the bottom of the sculpture.  The paper was left until it was dry (around one hour). The object tested negative for each test. However the results for the sulfate test were inconclusive since the test requires a lot of sulfate to yield a positive result, and there was no reaction even with the reduction of reagents. If there are any sulfates there is not a great enough on the test paper to yield a reaction for this test. It is also possible that salts could be deeper within the matrix of the stone.

Testing was carried out using protocols from Material Characterization Tests for Objects of Art and Archaeology (Odegaard, Carroll, and Zimmt 2000, 104, 124, 108).

Treatment History
Undocumented treatment prior to 1992:
The object was mounted to a stone base with two metal pins and mortar, A small square notch of stone was lost or removed and replaced with plaster on the proper left side of the back of the pillar at mid-height.

Old joins at the breaks in the legs were reversed and old corroded brass dowels were removed. The object was detached from the base with a jeweler’s saw which cut into the original stone slightly. Iron pins and mortar were drilled out from the bottom of the object.

The pins were replaced with one polyethylene dowel in the proper right leg and adhered with B-72 bulked with fumed silica. The fill in the back pillar was resurfaced with B-72 bulked with glass microballoons and inpainted.

Loss compensation along the cracks was completed with a mixture of Methocel™ A4M (methocellulose) in 1:1 acetone: ethanol bulked with cellulose pulp, glass microballoons and tinted with dry pigments, and inpainted with Golden acrylics.

1. The object’s condition was documented with digital photography and a written report.
2. Dry cleaned with a soft brush and a variable speed vacuum.
3. After discussions with senior Egyptians curator, Dr. Edward Bleiberg, it was decided to make the previous damages and loss compensation more visible, as this object will be included in an exhibition on iconoclasm and the label will discuss ancient intentional damage to this object.
4. Reduced inpainting on fills using acetone on a cotton swab. Ethanol and water (1:1) was also used to swell the paint and some was removed mechanically with a scalpel. The fill material is soluble in water.Used a scalpel, small file, and fine grit sand paper to further reduce the fill so that it is recessed below the surface of the object. Reduced any excess powder from the fill with ethanol and water (1:1).
5. Inpainted with Golden acrylic paints on top of the old fill.

Before and After Treatment Photographs

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