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Home > Auctions > 6th September 2022 > Egyptian Colossal Basalt Statue Clenched Hand of a King

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LOT 0035

GBP (£) 12,000 - 17,000
EUR (€) 14,350 - 20,330
USD ($) 14,620 - 20,710

Opening Bid
£10,800 (EUR 12,912; USD 13,155) (‡+bp*)

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Bid History: 0


A colossal right hand and portion of wrist from a massive basalt statue of a king, carved in the round and holding a cylindrical object which can be interpreted as a roll of cloth folded in two, that would have hung a short way down the right side of the pharaoh's striped kilt, part of the kilt still preserved; sensitive treatment of the slender fingers and nails showing the consummate skill of the sculptor. 10 1/3 x 9 2/3 in. (10.4 kg, 26 x 24.5 cm).

Private collection, acquired in the 1970s-1980s; thence by descent.
Private collection, since 1998.
Accompanied by a three page academic report by Egyptologist Paul Whelan.
This lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate no.11287-189880.

See Fischer, H.G., An Elusive Shape within the Fisted Hands of Egyptian Statues, Metropolitan Museum Journal, v. 10 (1975), 9-21.

The break on the outer side of the hand indicates that it was carved with the palm facing inwards and the thumb-side upward resting on the king’s lap (the thumb itself is broken). This confirms that the hand comes from a seated statue. Extrapolating from the dimensions of complete seated royal statues with the same hand position, it is possible to estimate that the hand here would have come from a colossal statue around 3-4 metres high.

This distinctive hand position is found most frequently on royal statues of the Old and Middle Kingdoms, and features even earlier on the royal statues belonging to King Khasekhemwy of the 2nd Dynasty. Many royal seated statues, especially of the New Kingdom and later, show the pharaoh’s hands flat with palms face down on his lap. Interestingly, at least two seated statues of the great New Kingdom ruler Ramesses II, which display the more elaborate hand form of this item, were originally carved for kings of the Middle Kingdom and were later usurped by him. While the relative abundance of colossal statues dating to the New Kingdom compared to other periods would favour a similar date for this hand, it is possible, given its particular style, that it belongs to an earlier period.

The area of the damaged thumb has been re-worked to create a squared open rebate, presumably to take a replacement. Some royal statues from Tanis have evidence of later restoration in the Third Intermediate Period, and the re-worked thumb area on the monumental hand may be evidence of this.