Stela of Amenemhat and Hemet

Stone block with ancient Egyptian figures in profile, hieroglyphics
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Stone block with ancient Egyptian figures in profile, hieroglyphics

Date:

Middle Kingdom, early Dynasty 12 (about 1956–1877 BC)

Artist:

Egyptian; probably from Thebes

About this artwork

Like other artworks in this catalogue, this stela was colored with a mixture of pigment and tempera. First, however, it was sculpted in raised and sunken relief; only later were some of its surfaces embellished with black, brown, green, yellow, and white paint. It commemorates for all eternity a man named Amenemhet and his wife, Hemet. Before them are two offering tables stacked with food. Their son appears in the upper right at a smaller scale. In addition to the hieroglyphs in the field, a brief text also appears on the top and right border.

Egyptian art is highly symbolic. The left side of the composition is the dominant position; the placement there of Amenemhet and Hemet conveys their importance. He stands in front of his wife, stressing that he is the head of the household. The social difference between them is indicated by the color of their skin. His is dark reddish brown and hers is yellow; he is active outdoors, while the home is her realm. They both wear traditional clothing and jewelry.

The goal of the artist was to immortalize the essential elements of his subjects.
This representation reflects conventions for portraying the human form as a composite diagram made up of different views. Amenemhet and Hemet are shown with their heads in profile, their shoulders frontal, and their chest, buttocks, and legs in profile. These positions offered the most characteristic and comprehensive views of the human form. Also, depth is represented by height, so the offerings at the top of the composition should be understood as the farthest away.

The brightly colored, raised-relief hieroglyphs within the scene record the names of the subjects, their lineage, and voice offerings, which refer to the belief that offerings could consist of actual food, images of food, written references to it, or the recitation of prayers that call for provisions. Carved in sunken relief and painted green, hieroglyphs along the top and right record a conventional prayer for food to sustain Amenemhet and Hemet in the afterlife.

Currently Off View

Ancient and Byzantine Art

Artist

Ancient Egyptian

Title

Stela of Amenemhat and Hemet

Origin

Egypt

Date

1956 BC–1877 BC

Medium

Limestone and pigment

Inscriptions

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] “Amenemhat” “Invocation offerings for the ka (soul) of the God’s Father Amenemhat, born of Ip” “His wife, whom he loves, Hemet, born of Itu”

Dimensions

31.1 × 41.7 × 6.7 cm (12 1/4 × 16 3/8 × 2 5/8 in.)

Credit Line

Museum Purchase Fund

Reference Number

1920.262

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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