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Home > Auctions > 21st February 2023 > Egyptian Female Dwarf Statuette

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LOT 0003

GBP (£) 3,000 - 4,000
EUR (€) 3,360 - 4,480
USD ($) 3,680 - 4,900

Opening Bid
£2,250 (EUR 2,521; USD 2,757) (+bp*)

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Bid History: 0
2 5/8 in. (50 grams, 66 mm high).

A figurine in blue-green faience depicting a human female displaying traits of achondroplasia, with a disproportionate body, protruding abdomen, prominent buttocks, and shortened limbs; the large and exaggeratedly flattened head sports a distinctive hairstyle consisting of three ‘bunches’ on the front and three long braids at the back; the shaven top of the head is indicated by stippling; the figure wearing a long, single-strand shell necklace, armlets, and a girdle, all indicated in black pigment, as are the facial details, hair colour, pubic triangle, fingernails, and toenails.

Acquired from Dr Jan Beekmans, circa 1985.
UK private collection.

Accompanied by an academic report by Egyptologist Paul Whelan.
This lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by search certificate no.11594-198343.

Cf. The Metropolitan Museum, New York, accession number 1972.48, for a similar figure; cf. Bourriau, J., Pharaohs And Mortals, Egyptian art in the Middle Kingdom, CUP, 1988, pp.121-122, for discussion and female dwarf figures; for a detailed discussion of the three-braid hairstyle see Tooley, A.M.J., Notes on Type 1 Truncated Figurines. Part 2. Hairstyles and the Conceptual Development of Braided Forms, SAK 49, 2020, pp.243-274 and pl. 27.

This figurine belongs to a rare sub-type in a category of anthropomorphic figures produced during the late 12th-13th Dynasty. The category comprises around 200 figurines which include truncated-leg females, ‘grotesque’ human forms, and those displaying more distinct traits of achondroplasia, such as can be observed in this figurine. Very few examples of this particular sub-type are known, of which only one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York provides a close parallel in terms of overall styling and form with this figurine.

The purpose of this figurine is not fully understood, but other types of female representations in the large corpus of Middle Kingdom faience figurines are now considered to have embodied generative and regenerative power for their owners. This figurine shares the same distinctive three-braid hairstyle and the necklace, armlets, and girdle body adornments found on some. Body adornments of this kind also occur on wooden
‘paddle doll’ female figurines which are considered to have some connection with khener-dancers, who performed in royal, temple and funerary spheres. Since, in funeral contexts, ritual dances were often performed by dwarfs, a further connection can possibly be made between the role of khener-dancers and this figurine. The performance of such dancers in royal or funerary contexts was considered to bring the power of regeneration and potency to the recipient.