Much of the portraiture from the Egyptian Old Kingdom is characterized by rigid postures and strict (precise) proportions. When constructing funerary statues, for example, sculptors would often leave parts of their slabs of stone untouched. The bodily figures, depicted in high relief, thus remained attached to the original stone blocks. This technique could serve to illustrate royal Egyptians as dignified rulers sitting upright in their thrones or standing next to something stable. In addition, the bodies, which exhibit rigidity in their upright frontal postures and forward-facing gazes, seem to mimic the clean lines of their stone backdrops.
However, a few surviving sculptures from the Old Kingdom deviate from this idealism in portraiture. Usually these unique pieces depict people outside of royalty or nobility. For example, the statue of the “Seated scribe” from Saqqura, Egypt (Fourth Dynasty), shows a man sitting cross-legged, free from his stone block except for the thin slab upon which he sits. This sculpture reflects the man’s wrinkles and slightly protruding belly in a more accurate manner when compared to the highly idealized proportions of, say, “Khafre enthroned” from Gizeh, Egypt (Fourth Dynasty). Moreover, the seated scribe wears a natural, perhaps even thoughtful expression, accentuated by the vivid colors of the statue’s paint. Overall, the sculptor’s use of natural lines and angles allows the work to take on a more lifelike appearance, signaling a future in which portraits would depict the human body as something belonging to the natural world and not as a stiffly symmetrical object.
Source: Kleiner, F. S. (2013). Gardner's art through the ages: A global history. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.