This sculpture is of Anubis, the ancient Egyptian funerary deity. Anubis’ most celebrated role was as guardian and protector of the dead. Most often, Anubis is portrayed as a man with a jackal’s head with pointed, alert ears. Anubis is also portrayed, rarely, as fully human.
With the head of a jackal and the body of a human, this particular sculpture was originally a dark bronze, but has turned green with age because of tarnish. This particular sculpture could have been made in one of two ways, casting or the lost-wax method, however was probably created using the casting method, as was common with popular sculptures. With the casting method, the bronze would have been melted, then poured into a mold, resulting in small sculptures that could be mass produced. In addition to the piece being sculpted out of bronze, it seems to be walking toward and staring at the viewer; this sculpture was probably used for worship.
The sculpture looks to be less then a foot tall and gives off an eerie vibe. It seems to be either evil or sad, or maybe both. There is no upper body movement at all; no facial movement, no movement of the arms. It is smooth except for the tasset. The smooth muscular areas, such as on the arms and legs, exemplify strength. It gives the idea that what is being portrayed is not only powerful, but sleek, and even appealing to the eye. Because of its many curves, the sculpture keeps the eyes moving. (Art that holds the eye stable will get boring to the viewer. If the eye is kept moving across the piece, the viewer will find something new each time the piece is looked at, therefore keeping it interesting.)
The dominating feature of the piece seems to be the head. The head is looming; oversized and overpowering of the body. It would be easy to say that the head is the strongest part of the piece. However, the arms also emit an aura of power. The arms of the sculpture alone seem like they could crush anything that was in their path. The legs of the piece are extremely thick, they seems to have straight lines, not like a normal humans legs, which are curvy going from the thighs into the calves, then the ankles. These legs are not delicate, but instead are able to overcome any obstacle in their path.
Also, the torso, which is bare, is muscular and seemly impenetrable. The normal human torso, which on most, is usually flabby due to fat and skin. However, the torso on this piece has no sign of skin or fat. The whole body of this figure has a super-human quality to it; this portrays a strength completely unstoppable by man; this is the artist’s depiction of the body of a god.
At the time this piece was sculpted, it is evident that human anatomy hadn’t been studied at length, as the body of the sculpture is disproportionate. For example, the arm lengths are uneven, the head is much bigger than probably intended, and the entire figure looks stretched. However, these features do not subtract from the piece. Instead, they bestow the viewer an unreal sense of size, showing Anubis to tower over mankind, even in such a small form. However, other than interacting with the viewer, (i.e., by appearing to walk toward or stare at the viewer), it doesn’t interact with anything else around it.
The sculpture’s stare is a significant part of the piece. It seems to have a icy cold stare that could see right through any person looking at it. It would be comparable to the stare of the Grim Reaper; a stare that would send a chill down the spine. Because of it seems so cold, the stare would be another symbol of strength. This contributes to the overall effect on the space surrounding the piece, namely the viewer.
Anubis is usually portrayed as entirely black. This sculpture was made of bronze, and by the looks of it, a dark bronze. It was probably made that way on purpose. Because the green of age and tarnish is lighter at the legs of the sculpture than at the upper body, it is safe to assume that the sculpture had been lying at an angle for many years, waiting in the sand to be discovered and looked upon again by man as a undying symbol of death.
The most likely reason it was sculpted out of bronze was that bronze is durable and dark. It was an aesthetic choice, probably, based on what was being portrayed. Light emphasizes the smoothness of the piece and the metal it is made of. One can tell by looking at it that it is a very hard sculpture. The pointed ears cast a slight shadow over the rest of the head. The chin of the piece, a box-like shape, in turn casts a slight shadow over the chest area. However, even in the light, the highlights are faint, seeming as if this Anubis statue would prefer to stay in darkness than to be seen in the light.
As a whole, the piece has presence. It seems to hold some sort of respect from those who view it. These aspects can be attributed not only to the subject, also the bronze it is made of, the pose it holds, the head, body, and certainly the stare. These features overall allow the statue to emanate power and strength. As a religious sculpture, this is exactly what the artist wanted to portray: Anubis’ power.
The reason why this piece draws my attention is because it allows me to explore an ancient civilization’s concept of death. My first impression was that the sculpture was not a major piece of artwork; it was just a mass-produced statue of worship. The artist probably took everything he knew and felt about Anubis and tried to express it in the sculpture. The artist, with the way the sculpture seems to be staring at the viewer and walking closer with unstoppable strength, maybe tried to portray that death is always coming closer and man alone cannot stop it. Anubis in this portrayal even seems to be barbaric and vicious, and yet at the same time cunning and patient. Even though it isn’t very tall, the piece predicts an end for all men, regardless of social stature. Because of this, the sculpture now seems to me a miniature monument: a long lasting reminder that death cannot be escaped.