Portrait versus Ideal Image
Ancient Egyptian art’s concern with individualized human representation has generated much debate among Egyptologists about the very existence of portraiture in Pharaonic society. The issue has often—if not always—been thought of in terms of opposition between portrait and ideal image, being a major topic in the broader question of realism and formal relation to reality in ancient Egyptian art. After a brief analysis of the problem from a theoretical point of view, the article deals with the Egyptological reception of the subject and considers the concepts involved in the notion of portrait within the context of ancient Egyptian thought. A few significant cases selected from the corpus of royal statuary are then investigated in order to elucidate the motives and modalities of the interaction between portrait and ideal image in ancient Egyptian individualized representations.