About This Artwork


Stela of Amenemhat and His Wife Hemet, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12 (1991-1784 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. Signs in offering prayer along upper and down its right edge incised and filled with blue...Figure of "the priest Amenemhet...and his wife, ...Himet.." standing before a "table of offerings"

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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