Even after Egypt came under foreign rule, Egyptian art changed very little stylistically, keeping to standard forms and poses. This statue, carved during the era of Greek control, still conforms to the artistic convention for the idealized depiction of the human figure devised 2000 years earlier. It was meant to be seen from a frontal view-point. Its inflexible standing pose, with left leg slightly advanced and the arms held rigidly at the sides, follows a strictly observed canon of proportions. Yet the softened musculature and curving contours reflect the influence of naturalistic Greek sculpture.
This statue was originally made for an Egyptian priest or high official. Like most Egyptian sculpture, it probably had the funerary function of providing the deceased’s ka (immortal spirit) an alternative place to reside should his mummy be destroyed. However, it was later appropriated by the Roman emperor Commodius (reigned 180-192 A.D.) who added the inscription at the base of the pillar in hieroglyphics, citing his own name.
Usurping the statues of earlier dignitaries was a common Roman practice. The power and grandeur achieved by Egyptian art within the strict limits of its ancient formulas so impressed the Romans that several emperors sought to enhance their own prestige by having their names inscribed on ancient monuments.