dimanche 20 mai 2012

Buste de Ankh Haef

Photo Marc Chartier

Une récente visite au Museum of Fine Arts de Boston (USA) m'a permis d'y photographier le buste de Ankh Haef : voir les deux clichés ci-dessus et ci-dessous.
Voici comment ce chef-d’œuvre est décrit par le Bulletin du Musée (vol. XLI, n° 246, décembre 1943) :
Photo Marc Chartier

"The most convincing example of individualized portraiture in the Pyramid Age is the painted lime- stoneand plaster bust of Ankh-haef (...). This unique masterpiece is remarkable for several reasons. The subject was of the highest rank, had the largest tomb in the royal family cemetery at Giza, and the inscriptions on it tell us that he was the “eldest son of the king’s body” (probably Cheops, builder of the Great Pyramid), and that he held the highest administrative offices in the kingdom, those of Vizier and “Overseer of All Works of the King.” It is clear that he was an important member of the immediate royal circle with the best sculptors of the court at his command. The bust is exceptional both in form and material. It is neither a “reserve head” nor was it ever part of a complete statue, and we know of no other busts in the round like it. The technique also is unusual, for the figure is carved out of fine white limestone and completely covered with a layer of plaster of Paris in which the finer modelling of the surfaces has been executed. This was doubtless done while the plaster coating was still wet, and the whole figure was then painted with the brick-red color normally used to represent the flesh of men. This red color was even laid over the closely cropped hair, a quite abnormal pro- cedure, and only the eyes appear to have been white with dark pupils. But what is most note-worthy about this unique head is its utter lack of convention and the startling realism of its modelling. The magnificent shoulders, neck, and skull reflect keen observation of nature and a thorough grasp of the structure beneath the surface. The realistic rendering of the rather small eyes is in marked contrast to normal Egyptian practice, and the careful modelling of the face, the muscles round the mouth, and the pouches under the eyes give evidence of minute observation of the living model. In the writer‘s view the bust of Ankh-haef is the supreme example of realistic portraiture which has survived from ancient Egypt, alike for its freedom from con- vention and for its perfection of execution"