Egyptian Limestone Relief
Egyptian · late Amarna Period,circa 1340-1300 B.C.
H: 53 cm
Dia: 5.3 cm
This block shows a funerary scene organized in three registers and including many ﬁgures. On the right, it is framed by a vertical inscription that mentions a longer text and therefore remains diﬃcult to interpret (“… he gives a beautiful sarcophagus after the old age to the Ka of the Great favorite of the great god, the one who comes out ﬁrst …”).
The block belonged to the relief carved in a tomb of the Amarna period or a slightly later (circa the late 14th century B.C.): it is decorated with a funerary scene. The ﬁgures are incised and in shallow sunk relief.
Like all funeral images, it was intended not to be seen by any human after the tomb was closed.
The upper register depicts a large group of ﬁgures facing left, who raise their hands in a gesture of prayer and look at the last ﬁgure, at least a full head taller. He was probably a king, dressed in a long pleated skirt. In front of the group of worshipers, a brief inscription describes them as “the companions of the King”. In the central scene, on the right, are the statues of the deceased followed by his wife, slightly smaller, who makes the gesture of greeting. Placed on a pedestal, the two images appear to be pulled to the left by a group of several ﬁgures; in the upper part, a woman, perhaps a daughter of the deceased, bows down, while a priest with a shaved head, wearing a leopard skin (the son of the deceased) precedes the funeral scene and turns backward. He holds an adze used for the Opening of the Mouth ritual. The lower register, less well preserved, shows a chapel, which probably covered the sarcophagus, provided with a triangular roof. Among the carved ﬁgures, the most important ﬁgure is at the center of the scene: taller than the others and more ﬁnely rendered, he also represents the king, wearing a rounded wig. The style of this relief, characterized by ﬁgures with elongated and elegant proportions, is neat and of the highest quality. The shapes can still be related to the standards of Amarna art (pro-portions of the bodies, heads, rounded bellies, etc.).
In the Amarna period, funeral cults were a delicate topic be-cause of the theology introduced by Akhenaten and many elements remain enigmatic to us, because of lack of sources (for instance, it is not certain that mummiﬁcation was still practiced): the scenes representing the afterlife and its rituals are there-fore rare. Among the documents concerned, one should mention the fragment of a sarcophagus housed in Strasbourg (with scenes of prostration before the statue of the deceased and of lament in front of the dead body) and a royal tomb discovered at Amarna, with other mourning scenes (lamentation in front of the dead body).
A block nearly rectangular in shape, flat in the posterior part. The slightly dotted surface shows minor breaks. Chips on the edges.
Art market, prior to the 1980’s;
Ex- Swiss private collection, acquired in May 1993 from a Swiss collector who acquired it in the 1980s.
On Amarna art, see:
Akhénaton et Néfertiti, Soleil et ombres des pharaons, Milan-Geneva, 2008, pp. 263 ff. (funerary cults).
MARTIN G., The Royal Tomb at El-Amarna, London, 1989, pl. 63.
SHAW I. (ed.), The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford, 2000, p. 286.