Author: Alex Fleischman, C’14
His stone face was larger than I’d imagined. His body lay flatter against the ground, and his pose and expression seemed more somber.
That was my first impression of the bowing prisoner as I stood before him today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Upon arriving at the museum, I sought out this object in “The Dawn of Egyptian Art,” a special exhibition open until August 5, although he doesn’t normally reside in the Met, but instead much closer to home—at the Penn Museum.
In fact, this object, a door socket carved to resemble a captive, was exchanged for another Egyptian prisoner—a statue that is currently on display in the Penn Museum’s Upper Egyptian Gallery.
The Met’s prisoner kneels, arms clearly bound behind him, his face partially damaged in what may have been a ritual act of destruction. The statue dates to Dynasty 6 of the Old Kingdom and was made during the reign of Pepi II (ca. 2246-2152 BCE). The Penn Museum’s door socket is older, dating to the first or second Egyptian dynasties—between 3000 and 2675 BCE.
Nevertheless, both prisoners seem to evoke regret, elicit sympathy, and ultimately, inspire fear for their captors—the aim of the Egyptian pharaohs who ordered their creation.