In last week’s blog post, I presented the back panel of a Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure (W2052). This is one of twenty-nine objects in the Egypt Centre collection, which have been categorised as Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figures: twenty figures and nine headdresses. While photographing some of these items last month, I was particularly intrigued by one of the headdresses (W2062). The object is a typical example of the Ptolemaic Period and may not seem to be overly exciting. It is made of wood, which is covered in a layer of painted gesso. Measuring 202mm in height, 169mm wide, and 22mm thick, the headdress was clearly part of a large Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure (fig. 1). The ram’s horns are painted black, while the double features have blue, red, and green decoration on a cream background. A yellow sun disc is painted on the front.
|Fig. 1: Ptah-Sokar-Osiris headdress (W2062)|
So what makes this headdress so interesting? Well, when checking the data on the Egypt Centre’s catalogue, I noticed that it had an unidentified number 118 associated with it. As the catalogue had no further details about this number, I checked the object file to see if there was anything additional, or even if the label with this number still existed. Fortunately, it did, with the style indicating to me that it was a lot number (fig. 2). This is not surprising since much of the Egypt Centre collection originated from that of Sir Henry Wellcome, who purchased innumerable Egyptian objects at auction for over three decades until his death in 1936.
|Fig. 2: Archives from the object file, including lot label|
With no further details on the label, surely it would prove difficult to identify the specific auction? While the label may seem somewhat generic, I knew it was a type commonly found on objects from the 1907 collection of Robert de Rustafjaell, which was auctioned by Sotheby’s. Therefore, I checked lot 118 in the auction catalogue to see if the description matched. Bingo! My hunch proved accurate, with the catalogue describing the lot as “Another of similar size, the base shorter [Plate VIII]”. The preceding lot was a complete Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure, which also happens to be in the Egypt Centre collection (W2001C). Most exciting is that a photo of W2062 is shown in the plates, but as a complete Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure rather than just the crown of a figure (fig. 3)!
|Fig. 3: Plate VIII showing lots 117 (W2001) and 118|
I checked the Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figures in the Egypt Centre collection to see if any matched the plate, without success. Knowing that the Egyptian material in the Wellcome collection was dispersed to several UK institutions, I messaged Dr Ashley Cooke, the lead curator of antiquities in the World Museum Liverpool, to ask if the Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure was in Liverpool. I received a reply within an hour, with Ashley suggesting that it could be acquisition number -. This object is a tall and slender Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure on a base, which, stylistically, comes from Akhmim (fig. 4). A comparison between the photos provided by Ashley and the plate confirm a perfect match. Readers to this blog are probably wondering about the Sokar-hawk, which is shown on top of the base on the Liverpool object but not in the auction catalogue. It turns out that this Sokar-hawk is a recent addition, which carries a different acquisition number.
|Fig. 4: Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figure in Liverpool ( 1973.1.686)|
So how and when did the crown become separated from the figure and base? While it is not possible to say with any precision, it can be determined that this happened sometime between 1907 and 1927. The Wellcome number associated with the figure in Liverpool is A61348 (fig. 5), which describes it as a “STATUETTE. Wood, carved, 20" high 4½" wide on base 12¾ " x 4 Painted with heiroglyphics and inscription. Egyptian.” This roughly matches the measurements of the Liverpool figure, indicating that the headdress in Swansea was no longer associated with it when the object was catalogued at the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum in 1927.
|Fig. 5: Wellcome slip|
This blog post highlights the importance of collaboration between museums with Wellcome material, which can often lead to understanding our collections better and even virtually reuniting objects. I am most grateful to Ashley for providing information and photos of the figure in Liverpool.
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Raven, Maarten J. 1978–1979. Papyrus-sheaths and Ptah-Sokar-Osiris statues. Oudheidkundige mededelingen uit het Rijksmuseum van Oudheden 59–60, 251–296.
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Rindi Nuzzolo, Carlo 2017. Tradition and transformation: retracing Ptah-Sokar-Osiris figures from Akhmim in museums and private collections. In Gillen, Todd (ed.), (Re)productive traditions in ancient Egypt: proceedings of the conference held at the University of Liège, 6th–8th February 2013, 445–474. Liège: Presses universitaires de Liège.
Sotheby, Wilkinson, & Hodge. (1907) Catalogue of a collection of antiquities from Egypt, ... being the second portion of the collection of Robert de Rustafjaell, esq. F.R.G.S, which will be sold by auction, ... on Monday, the 9th of December, 1907, and the following day. London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge.