About This Artwork

Egyptian; probably from Thebes

Stela (Commemorative Stone) of Amenemhat and Hemet, Middle Kingdom, early Dynasty 12 (about 1956-1877 BC)

Limestone and pigment
31.1 x 41.7 x 6.7 cm (12 1/4 x 16 3/8 x 2 5/8 in.)
The hieroglyphic text names the deceased and family and calls upon the god Osiris to grant them sustenance in the afterlife.

[top] “A gift the king gives consisting of 1,000 of bread, beer, oxen, fowl, alabaster, linen, provisions, and every good thing upon which a god lives”

[right] “The one revered before Osiris, Lord of Busiris, the Great God, Lord of Abydos”

[hieroglyphic captions]

“Invocation offerings for the ka (soul) of the God’s Father Amenemhat, born of Ip”

“His wife, whom he loves, Hemet, born of Itu”

Museum Purchase Fund, 1920.262

The function of Egyptian tomb art was to preserve scenes of daily life for the afterlife. Since that function did not change for centuries, the art also did not change. For example, this section of the tomb of a priest named Amenemhet was carved 600 years later than the Old Kingdom reliefs, yet it exhibits many of the same themes as the earlier works. The well-preserved pigment serves as a reminder that most Egyptian reliefs, as well as statues, were brightly painted.

—Permanent collection label

This fragment from a vividly painted tomb illustrates how a completed tomb interior might look. Amenemhet and his wife are surrounded by haunches of meat, vegetables, jars—perhaps of beer—and loaves of bread needed to nourish them in the afterlife. The receding space of the room is suggested by stacking objects so that no loaf or jar is hidden from view. Finally, by naming food and supplies such as linen for clothing in the hieroglyphic text, the tomb owner was assured of comfort in life after death.

— Exhibition label, When the Greeks Ruled: Egypt After Alexander the Great, October 31, 2013–July 27, 2014, Gallery 154.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 154A, April 20, 1994 - February 6, 2012.

SO41205, 8/4/1949 to Oriental Institute; returned RofO 38342, 10/21/1991.

The Art Institute of Chicago, When the Greeks Ruled: Egypt After Alexander the Great, October 31, 2013 - July 27, 2014.

Publication History

Emily Teeter, "Collecting for Chicago: James Henry Breasted and the Egyptian Collections," in the Oriental Institute, News and Notes, Members' Magazine, issue 226 (Summer 2015), cover illustration.

Karen B. Alexander, "From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago," in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, by Karen Manchester (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2012), p. 28.

Geoff Emberling and Emily Teeter, “The First Expedition of the Oriental Institute, 1919-1920,” in Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East 1919-1920, ed. Geoff Emberling, Oriental Institute Museum Publications 30 (Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2010), pp. 47-48, fig. 4.17.

"CLEOPATRA; THE ANCIENT WORLD," Computer program, 1997, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Emily Teeter, "Egyptian Art," Museum Studies: Ancient Art at The Art Institute of Chicago, vol. 20, no. 1 (1994), pp. 19-20 (ill.), no. 3.

Karen Alexander, "The New Galleries of Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago," Minerva (May/June, 1994), vol. 5, no. 3, p. 29, fig. 1.

Thomas George Allen, A Handbook of The Egyptian Collection (Art Institute of Chicago/University of Chicago Press, 1923), p. 40 (ill.).

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