Head of a Black African Man, 300 BCE-300 CE
Hellenistic or Roman
Egypt, possibly Fayyum Region
3 5/8 × 2 3/8 × 2 ½ in. (9.2 × 6 × 6.4 cm)
3-D Object/Sculpture
Y 107

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This terracotta head of a clean-shaven young man, now broken at the neck, most likely comes from a statuette. The figure has features that indicate he is a Black African man, including short, thick, curly hair, a wide nose, and large lips in a slight smile. He has a long, slender face and naturalistic proportions. The ears protrude slightly from the head. Additional features, such as the pupils of the eyes, may have once been indicated with paint.  

This piece is one of many terracottas that once belonged in the collection of Dr. Daniel Marie Fouquet (1850–1914), a French doctor based in Cairo between 1882 and 1914, who extensively collected Egyptian, Coptic, and Islamic antiquities. His collection was sold in 1922 at an auction in Paris. In the collection catalogue, this piece is number 374 and it is said to come from the Fayyum region of Egypt. The Fayyum was a well-known area for archaeological excavations during the 19th and early 20th centuries, with many finds of papyri, mummified individuals (and their portraits), and other objects. Dr. Fouquet was known to have bought antiquities directly from excavations, but the specific archaeological provenience of this piece is not included in his records. Scholar Jennifer Gates-Foster has suggested that this object may have represented a cult attendant, functioned as a symbol of fertility, or both.  

Like other objects in the collection, not all aspects of its history are known. On the back of the neck, the number “824” is written in black ink. Archival records, including a numbered photograph, indicate that 824 is the inventory number of this object in Fouquet’s collection.