Posted by Kate Phizackerley on Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I am catching up on a few things and found  really nice little article about the face of Tutankhamun by Marianne Luban.  Marianne starts:

I have written it here and elsewhere that the best way to know how a king of Egypt really looked is to see his face as substituted for those of his servants and nobles
Marianne goes on to suggest that a statue of Paramessu is a good "substitution portrait" for the face of Tutankhamun.  Follow the link for details and a picture.


Anonymous said...

It also resembles the face on a statue of Nakhtmin.

Marianne Luban said...

Actually, the faces of Nakhtmin and his wife are beautified versions of the face of Ay.

Kate Phizackerley said...

Thanks Marianne

Anonymous said...

When it comes to artistic interpretations, opinions inevitably differ. I am assuming the head we are talking about is the one from the much damaged limestone dyad of Nakhtmin and his wife bought by the Cairo Museum in 1897. It is of unknown provenance, but may come from Memphis (in which case, there was presumably a tomb akin to those of Maya and Horemheb).
In "Edna R. Russman: Egyptian Sculpture, British Museum Publications, London 1990 p 136", there is the following description of the head:
"This statue seems to have been made after the death of Tutankhamun, but the young king's image is the source of Nakhtmin's features. The rounded brows, the tilted eyes with their short, prominent upper lids, the soft but firm full lips and almost introverted air of abstraction are equally apparent in the face of this high-ranking officer."
Unfortunately for the writer of this confident piece of prose, on the preceding pages there are photographs of statues of Amun and Khonsu with Tutankhamen's facial features. There is little resemblance between them and Nakhtmin.

Marianne Luban said...

Today I have tried to demonstrate that the actual face of Ramesses II, as opposed to his own idealized portraits, was enough to chill the blood in ones veins. So the substitution images of his subjects suggest. Not very surprising, as even the visage of the man's mummy still appears haughty. In a way, the pharaoh had the look of a calculating merchant--much like England's Henry VII.

Kate Phizackerley said...

I am hoping to have time tomorrow to do a proper post about your new substition images article

rymerster said...

I'm interested in two more faces associated with Tutankhamun from the British Museum archives, the first is allegedly from Amarna:

The second is simply stunning and I'm surprised it's not on prominent display. It's a coffin fitting (face) acquired by the museum in 1843, yet it has the same face (in my opinion) as Tutankhamun's third coffin, discovered in 1922:

To compare here is the face from Tutankhamun's third coffin:

The existence of the coffin face may indicate that the 3rd coffin was part of a set used in another burial or that it is an example of substitution.

Marianne Luban said...

Very good observations, Rymerster. And don't forget this coffin, put into service for the re-interred mummy of Ramesses II.

Obviously, it was also fashioned close to the time of Tutankhamun, but for whom was it made? Another beautiful face. As for Rymerster's first Amarna image, [and it really is a tiny thing] I am also inclined to think it belonged to the baby Tutankhaten--especially on account of the eyes.

Marianne Luban said...

And the face also agrees with the head of little Tut as pharaoh in the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Anonymous said...

I cannot gain access to the BM archives, for some reason, my server keeps telling me they are unavailable. Any chance of a photo of the "coffin face" with Tutankhamen-like features?
1843 is a bit late for Belzoni, otherwise I would suggest the tomb of Ay as a possible source. With regard to the Amarna-style coffin that contained the body of Ramesses II,I read that the coffin from KV55 once bore traces in the now much degraded face a clear image, albeit very delicate and one it did not prove possible to conserve. However, with modern scanning techniques, is there any possibility that this face could be reconstucted photographically from the plates in Davis's publication? I pose this question because there is much speculation that items from this burial, or its original place of interrment, were re-cycled for the burial in KV62.

Patrick said...

Many thanks for the references to the BM pieces, rymerster. I hadn't seen them anywhere before. A pity their page is often on the blink.
I think we should tread carefully before drawing any conclusions about who the faces represent, especially as they portray close family members. To me the wooden coffin cover looks more like Akhenaten (especially the drooping mouth) or the other royal who could be his brother and/or Smenkhkare (repeat, could), but that would open a rather startling line of speculation that I would rather not embark upon. Always supposing it is genuine, of course!

Stephanie said...

I don`t know how I could miss these two interesting pieces on my previous visits to the BM! They are definitely worth another trip some time, especially the tiny plaster mask.
There is BTW a head of an Amarna princess which is often attributed to Ankhesenpaaten, probably because it does not resemble the known depictions of Nefertiti and those supposed to represent Meritaten, and which has similar features and the same somewhat melancholic expression as this plaster mask.

But as this mask is said to be from the later/post Amarna period and it looks more boyish and is very small indeed it quite likely represents Tutankhaten (if the measurements of the piece correspond with the natural ones that is). Besides as Marianne has pointed out it bears much resemblance to the head in the Met supposed to represent Tut.

The plaster cast is said to have been made from a mould. Would this mould have been the reverse made from the plaster mask that came directly from the sitter`s face?
And was the purpose of these plaster casts to serve as models for the sculptors to ease their work?

I know there was another extensive discussion on plaster masks at some point but I don`t remember if these points were discussed then.

Anonymous said...

When I first began visiting the BM in the Nineteen-fifties, there were 2 or 3 wooden guardian statues on open display (you could touch them) at the base of the staircase at the far end of the Egyptian Sculpture gallery. I clearly recall that one of these had had its face sliced off and that they were from the Salt Collection. Not living in the UK, I cannot visit to confirm this. However, the face that has been described as coming from a coffin, could it have come from such a guardian statue?

Patrick said...

Since the 1950's,Marianne, the BM has closed down two of the Egyptian side galleries to make room for the new coffee shop. This leaves far fewer pieces on display! I particularly miss a lovely head which the experts couldn't decide whether to attribute to Hatshepsut or Thutmose III. Such is progress...

rymerster said...

The guardian statues are still on display, along with other pieces from the tombs of Ramesses I and Horemheb (images of various deities). The faces are damaged, but I think possibly to have removed precious metals, as you can see in the image below:

Anonymous said...

Oh well, that seems to rule out that avenue of approach. I'm glad the wooden statues survived being exposed to the hands of interested children!! CJB

Patrick said...

After looking at Tutankhamun's mummy and comparing that face to his other portraits, it becomes clear that, apart from the buck teeth, he had inherited the 'Amarna' thin face and drooping chin, which is clear in the mummy of his great-grandmother Thuya and is prominent in the heads of his uncle, Akhenaten, and cousins, Meritaten & Co. It is nothing like the funeral mask, which would represent the orthodox post-Amarna royal portrait, and which is similar to Amenhotep III's later 'Chubby-faced' style. Other portraits in the tomb (e.g. the 2nd, not the 3rd coffin) would appear to represent somebody else - presumably Smenkhkare or Neferneferuaten, some looking distinctly feminine. Remember that several of these pieces were re-inscribed for Tutankhamun. The closest images to the mummy could be Carter's Nº 8 (a gessoed painted wooden head) and 116 (a wooden dummy)on the Griffith archive site. Does this help to clarify the issue, or merely muddy the waters?

Stephanie said...

But the wooden gessoed head (the child rising from the lotus?) and especially the wooden dummy have very chubby features, a short round face and a chin which is neither long nor drooping. So they should not resemble the mummy which you describe as thin-faced and having a drooping chin.
Tut`s mummy has a rather short, round or oval face and taking into account the enormous shrinking of the soft tissue it could even have been somewhat chubby.
The eyes and slim nose certainly resemble Tuya`s and most of these features can be seen in all Amarna royals.
However, Akhenaten stands out with his longer drooping jaw, a feature which can also be seen in the Younger Lady`s mummy.

Anonymous said...

At the Basel Tutankhamen Exhibition, it was possible to look closely at one of the canopic coffinettes. There did indeed seem to be evidence of a name change, but not all the hieroglyphs seemed to have been altered. I wondered if the alterations reflected the change from Tutankh-Aten to Tutankh-Amen. Given there has been so much speculation on whether or not the burial equipment was appropriated from earlier rulers, I would suggest there is scope here for a scientific study of the pieces involved to establish the true nature of any changes that have been made. By chance I happen to have been looking at Kent Weeks's book on X-raying the pharaohs. What struck me was the authors' attempts to "digitize" (forgive me if that is not a proper word!) the skulls of the royal mummies to permit a mathematical/statistical comparison. Perhaps a similar analysis of the images of Tutankhamen could be undertaken so that a comparison might be made. This might go some way to establishing what, if any, statuary or burial equipment was from other sources. It sounds like a good subject for a high-tech PhD.

Patrick said...

Hi, CJB. In 'Amarna Papers' some years ago Aidan Dodson showed that the inscriptions on the canopic coffinettes had been altered, and reconstructed the itinerary: Smenkhkare beloved of Akhenaten - Neferneferuaten beloved of Waenre - Tutankhamen ruler of southern On. He also suspected the nomen inscription on the second coffin (the one that looks different) had been altered.
Stephanie, re the head. The elongated head and the mouth, plus the pointed chin, are pure Amarna royal family style, as if the piece had come out of Thutmose's studio. The boy looks very young, which figures - I'd say 5-6. If you take away the puppy fat, the main features of the head, especially in profile, are not unlike the mummy's head, or Marianne's original head which started all this off. The dummy would be the king on or just after his accession; the same mouth and chin. Both are domestic, 'intimate' pieces, not designed for public show, and thus more likely to represent the boy's real appearance, with a few embellishments, naturally.

Kate Phizackerley said...


I agree that statistical studies is a much overlooked area in archaeology as a whole, and in Egyptology in particular. I think you have identified one particular application which could yield interesting results.


Marianne Luban said...

As to the inscriptions on the canopic coffinettes, I think it is now believed that Smenkhkare was not involved. There was only Ankh[et]kheperura Neferneferuaten with the epithet "Ax-n-h[A]=s" which means "beneficial to her husband". So the coffinettes had belonged to a female and were subsequently altered for Tutankhamun.

Obviously the faces of little children can appear more chubby than when the children grow up. Mummified faces have no fat and their jaws can have dropped if nobody bothered to tie anything under the chin and around the head of the deceased right after death to make sure the mouth stayed closed. The thin face of a mummy can be quite misleading.

Anonymous said...

Mummification is a dessication process with the natron used by the Egyptians absorbing fluid. This certainly shrinks most features but could not, in the case of Hatshepsut, for example, hide the fact she was overweight. With facial features, I believe this was one of the reasons behind Professor Weeks' digitization of the royal mummies, so that a fair comparison could be made (sounds like science at KS2 in the National Curriculum and establishing a "fair test").
With regard to the coffinette I saw in Basel, I'm not convinced. The objects need to be measured and probed in depth (though not destructively!!). I forget who it was, but someone once made the point that Tutankhamen was king for 9 years and that in that time, he ought to have had enough opportunity to prepare the goods needed for a burial. It was a fair point as Tuthmosis IV was king for the same length of time and his tomb is much bigger than KV62.

Marianne Luban said...

I have never seen a mummy with a fat or chubby face unless it was stuffed with packing material. To be fair--Thutmose IV was an adult when he became king, around twenty years old. Tut was a child and depended upon others to get things done for him at first. Also, Tut started out at Akhetaten and then lived at Memphis as far as we know. He may never have resided at Thebes at all. For someone who reigned for about a decade, Tut certainly has few officials buried in the Theban necropolis--as opposed to Thutmose IV, who has a good number. Surely, if Tut had been working on a tomb for himself, KV62 was not it.

Anonymous said...

Both KV57 and the West Valley tomb of Ay have been cited as possible intended burial places for Tutankhamen, though in the case of Ay's tomb, that would mean there is not much to show for 13 or so years of work.
Re. the images of Tutankhamen, back in the Eighties, Claude Vandersleyen wrote an article on the iconography of Tutankhamen's images from KV62 in a Swiss journal. BSEG 9, 10 for 1985 I think it was, but I need to find some old notes from the period to double check.

Patrick said...

In the abstract to Vandersleyen's article it states that many of the images of Tutankhamun in his tomb do not represent him, and affirms that the four coffinettes, the four canopic vases and the second coffin come from 'the owner of KV55', the figure on the leopard is Kiya and the figures on the back of the gold throne were originally Akhenaten and Kiya. This latter does sound very much like a 1980's idea!
Re the reinscribed names on the coffinettes, I believe Marc Gabolde and Aidan Dodson are still arguing about whether the final epithet means 'useful to her husband' or 'beloved of Akhenaten', although they agree that the excised name was 'Nferneferuaten'.
Re Hatshepsut's mummy, the identification is still at the hypothesis stage.

Anonymous said...

BSEG vols 9- 10 1984-5
Claude Vandersleyen: L'iconographie de Toutankhamoun et les effigies provenant de sa tombe

There is a later paper:

D. Laboury
Mise au point sur l'iconographie de Neferouaten, le predecesseur de Toutankhamon
Studies for the Centennial of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo 2002

Re Hatshepsut's mummy. Is there now some doubt over the tooth?

Anonymous said...

This might not be the right posting for this article, but as it is a "live" Tutankhamen discussion, i hope no-one will mind if I mention it here. It is titled,
"Akhenaton, Smenkhkare at Tutankhamon: nouvelles perspectives"
The web address is:
It is in French, one of the bonuses of living here!

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