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Tomb of Meketre, western Thebes
Wooden statue of a servant carrying a fowl and balancing a basket on her head. She is finely carved and painted and is one of the finest examples of this type.
This tall, slender woman was discovered in a hidden chamber in the tomb of Meketre. Looking at this graceful figure, you can see the difference between a work made in wood and one of stone. Similar conventions guide the artist, but the more flexible and forgiving medium of wood allows the sculptor to free the entire body, including the limbs, and to create what is truly a piece of sculpture in the round.
Probably, the two most prominent types of models are offering bearers and boats. Offering bearers are some of the tallest figures, as well as dating from some of Egypt's earliest periods. They tend to be female, though male offering bearers are also encountered. The females usually carry food items, while the male variety tend to carry religious items. Early offering bearers are simple pottery figures, but later, they were often made with considerable artistic skill, rivalling the statues of the tomb owner himself. This is probably indicative of the importance that the Egyptians placed on this particular variety of models, believing their afterlife was dependent on these symbolic workers.
The figure holds a live duck by its wings in one hand and balances a basket of foodstuffs on her head with the other. In rural areas Egyptians still carry heavy loads on their heads, as do people in many parts of the world.
This figure is larger than the others because she embodies the products of an entire estate that Meketre determined to be the source that would provide offerings for his funeral cult in perpetuity. Her size, broad collar necklace, bracelets, anklets, and dress indicate her importance. The patterns on her dress represent small feathers, and the vertical stripes of the underskirt, long wing feathers. Goddesses are frequently portrayed in similar costumes. Here the dress probably refers to Isis or Nephthys, both of whom protected the dead in the afterlife. Interestingly, because the action of offering is important, offering women may stride - a pose usually reserved for men. The companion figure in Cairo is dressed in a garment made of bead netting.
Since this statue is made of wood, it must have been carved from the roughly cylindrical shape of a tree trunk, yet the squared base and the frontal, balanced pose conform to the rectilinear style of stone sculpture. Unlike the case in stone sculpture, however, in wooden figures the space between body and limbs is open, creating a more lifelike appearance. The colours and patterns, as well as the figure's large eyes and slender, subtly naturalistic form, are arresting. The gray-green colour, especially on the wig but also on the garment, originally may have been blue, the hair colour of deities. The arms, base, duck figure, and basket were made separately, then attached to the body.