A serdab is a hidden chamber in an Egyptian tomb from which the deceased are believed to view the rituals of their cult. In 1906, a team led by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expeditions explored a tomb in Giza, Egypt and were thrilled to stumble upon a painted limestone statue of a couple in the serdab of the tomb. The finding of the statue from the tomb was the first of its kind, and it was received with much excitement by the trustees of the museum. An inscription at the base of the statue identifies the man as Ptahkhenwy, supervisor of palace trainers and his partner’s name is not legible.
The couple is believed to have belonged to the Old Kingdom of Egypt, which flourished from 2465—2323 B. C. This statue of Ptahkhenwy and his wife was sculpted from limestone and was about 70. 14 cm tall. It was painted, and the paint was almost intact at the time of the find. This was quite unlike other Egyptian sculptures, which were often excavated with their colors lost. Though Ptahkhenwy wasn’t of royal descend, the artist who made this private sculpture had tried to add a royal touch to it. This is evident from the pose of Ptahkhenwy’s wife who, standing beside Ptahkhenwy, has an arm embracing her husband.
This pose is similar to the sculpture of King Menkaure and his queen. The man poses with his left leg forward, a traditional pose of a male, and the woman has both her feet together. This is not a true portrait. It is evident from the fact that both their facial features are the same. The artist seems to have made them so to concede with their wish of being remembered in this beautiful form in posterity. The artist had retained a traditional touch to the sculpture. Ptahkhenwy is colored in red ochre. This is the traditional color for Egyptian men and it indicates the work that they do outside their homes leaving them sunburned.
His wife is colored in yellow ochre. This indicates that she was mostly bound to the insides of her house. The negative space between the couple is painted gray. Both their garments are in white color. The wife wears a V-collared sheath dress that was the traditional costume of the women of those times. To add an aesthetic touch, the artist has made the dress cling to the body of the woman. It is so tight that it reveals every part of her body and, according to the Museum of Fine Arts, even “walking would have been impossible” in such a costume. However, it was not so in reality.
Women wore much looser garments enabling them to carry on their chores. The man wears the customary wrap-around kilt that runs up to his knee. The artist has added bright jewelry to Ptahkhenwy and his wife. This was common of the Egyptians of the time. Both wear broad collars. Bright colors in the collars are indicative of semi-precious stones or glazed earthenware. The lady wears two anklets and a bracelet. The design and color are almost similar to actual jewelry found in other Egyptian tombs. Both wear black wigs—Ptahkhenwy’s has curls cut in rows and his wife’s is parted in the center and reaches her shoulder level.