Between the death of Ramesses XI, which ended the New Kingdom, and the beginning of the Late Period in Ancient Egypt, a succession of eleven Pharaohs of Libyan descent ruled the lands. This period saw the sewing of the seeds of social change in Ancient Egypt – a weakening centralised royal authority fell to the power of the temple networks, which became the dominant sphere for political aspirations, social identification and artistic production. Technological and stylistic innovations caused workshop output to flourish around Tanis in the north-eastern Nile delta, where many artisans of fine metalworking were based. This fine bronze bust, form the middle part of the Intermediate Period, exemplifies such crafts and original forms that were produced during this time.
Depicting the serene face of a powerful male, the bust was originally adorned with a beard and inlaid with precious stones set in the eye and brow grooves. The well-preserved surface exhibits a beautiful rich and deep patina; a hallmark of the fine mastery of bronze working from this period. The exquisite detail and precise workmanship make this a significant work of Egyptian art. This superbly executed bust may have originally adorned the inside of a temple depicting perhaps a member of the royal household – successive pharaohs from this period were keen to leave their image on decorative schemes facing out from the porticos of religious buildings. Whomever it may be, they are clearly a figure of illustrious persona, who command much power through a dignified demeanour.
A similar hollow cast bronze bust also from the XXII Dynasty of almost identical size is now housed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It depicts the Egyptian deity Harpocrates, the god of silence, secrets and confidentiality. This example has the same fine delineation of form, and deep set channels for the eyes and brows which would have also contained precious stones and gems, and is strangely rendered with scarring across the face, lacking the smooth finish of this example. Interestingly, the Rijksmuseum is complete with a detachable headset of cast a cast bronze wig, much like what may have originally attached to this statue. Another similar bronze head exists of a female priestess in the Heckett Collection, which originally contained inlayed coloured glass and gold flecks, supporting the idea this would have too.
This piece once graced the distinguished collection of Flora Whitney Miller (b. 1897), the American artist, socialite and art collector, whose mother Gertrude (b. 1875) was heir to the Vanderbilt fortune, and together they founded the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1931, at which Flora’s daughter and granddaughter still remain active. Flora was engaged to the son of the American president Theodore Roosevelt until he was killed in action in the First World War. She married her second husband in Cairo, Egypt; a country whose history had long enamoured her, inspiring her passion for collecting of Ancient Egyptian artefacts including this bust.
 W.S. Stevenson, W.K. Simpson, Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt, Yale University Press, 1998. P.218.
 C.R. Lepsuis, W. Bell; The XXII Egyptian Royal Dynasty, with Some Remarks on XXVI and Other Dynasties of the New Kingdom, Cambridge University Press, 2010. P.13.
 Bronze Egyptian bust, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 11.8 cm. F1985/12, 27.
 M.J. Raven in: P. Akkermans, et al., Brons uit de Oudheid, Amsterdam 1992, 16-17.1.
 Flora Whitney Miller, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington D.C., 20540 USA.
Acquired on the New York Art market, 2015.
Ex private collection of Ms Flora Whitney Miller, Sothebys New York, 1987.
F.K Collection Bloomsbury, MI, acquired from Royal Athena NY in 1980s.
Masterpiece London, 2017.
Carnegie Institute, The Heckett Collection, cat. no. 36.
Sotheby’s, New York, May 29, 1987, Lot 41A.
Sotheby’s, New York, December 11, 1980, Lot 268.
Sotheby’s, New York, May 21, 1977, Lot 347.