Old Kingdom, Dynasty III (2680-2600 BC)
Provenance: possibly from Saqqara, later Drovetti Collection, 1824
Inv. Nr. C. 3065
A stone as hard as basalt can only be worked using other hard stones with which it can be chipped and abraded. The polishing was probably done by dipping a wetted linen cloth in quartz sand and rubbing the surface. Sculptured stone figures of this date are extremely rare. The great size of this figure (83 cm), the choice of a hard stone material (versus a softer stone such as limestone) and the fact that a women is depicted make this one of the most important archaic sculptures in the world. The seated lady, whose name is depicted in raised relief on the base, is Redit, daughter of a king, and she wears a heavy plaited long wig which falls in three lappets over her shoulders and back. She is compact with a short neck, massive body, but with arms, so that she appears hardly freed from the original block of stone. Redit’s face shows the rudiments of details around the eyes, which would later be developed into sculpted rims with long cosmetic stripes. Detail was reserved here for the large wig, which may have served as a device by the sculptor to avoid breakage (later a back pillar would serve this purpose). The sculpture was meant as a physical double for the deceased, which the ka-spirit could inhabit. This statue came from a tomb, maybe not the deceased’s own, but that of a man on whom she depended in this life and in the Afterlife. Another thousand years would pass before sculptures of private men and women would be dedicated in the temples.