A relief fragment of very high quality, positively identified by a well-known Egyptologist as coming from the pyramid temple of pharaoh Pepi II - Neferkare in South Saqqara. This was a king of the sixth dynasty (circa 2322 - 2191 B.C.) who reigned exceptionally long, estimated variously between sixty and ninety years.
Depicted is the upper half of a man, looking towards the left. He is bare to the waist, and is wearing a short wig composed of twenty tiers of tight curls. His arm is raised, which could indicate that the fragment belongs to a scene of slaughter; many tombs contain depictions of butchers in various positions. But it may also come from a different kind of scene which asks for a similar position of the arm, for example a bird catching scene.
The fragment is stylistically very close to scenes in the mortuary complex of Pepi II. Fragments from this temple were published by Gustave Jéquier, Le monument funéraire de Pepi II, tome II: Le temple (Le Caire, Institut français d'archéologie orientale, 1938), pl. 98, and reproduced - with an additional fragment - by Andreas Brodbeck in Hermann Schlögl (Hrsg.), Geschenk des Nils. Ägyptische Kunstwerke aus Schweizer Besitz (Basel, 1978), p. 39-40, no. 126. Not only the wig, but also the almost identical design of the eyes and mouths as well as other factors were reasons for a specialist to confirm, after careful comparison, that the fragment offered here comes from the pyramid temple of Pepi II.
Published: J. Eisenberg, Art of the Ancient World, volume XX, 2009, no. 168; John Dorfman, “The Lure of Egypt”, Art & Antiques Magazine, volume 33, issue 1 (January 2010); J. Eisenberg, Art of the Ancient World, volume XXVIII, 2017, no. 144.
Provenance: German private collection, acquired from Royal-Athena Galleries, New York; before that U.S. private collection, acquired from Mathias Komor, New York, in the 1960s.