This head was part of a statue, carved from sandstone, of the pharaoh Mentuhotep II, the unifier of Egypt, at the end of the so-called First Intermediate Period, at the end of the third millennium B.C., and whose name is written on the back supporting pillar. The face is painted dark red to render the idea of the skin colour of a male figure, a convention typical of Egyptian figurative art. This sculpture is an extraordinary example of monumentary Egyptian portraiture and probably came from his burial temple in Deir el-Bahari, in West Thebes.
Considered illegitimate in some pharaonic king-lists, Mentuhotep II promoted the construction of numerous architectural works, including temples and chapels, especially in Upper Egypt. Mentuhotep, like the other sovereigns of his dynasty, effectively governed the country from the city of Thebes, unlike the Pharaohs of Dynasty XII, who chose Lisht in Lower Egypt as the capital of the kingdom. The founder of Dynasty XII, Amenemhat, served as a vizier Mentuhotep II.