Saturday, December 26, 2015

Stela of Amenyseneb (cont.)

Fig. 1 - Stela of Amenyseneb (reverse side)
Fig. 2 - Stela of Amenyseneb (reverse side)
     As mentioned in the previous post, this stela is unusual in that it is inscribed on both sides. The reverse has scenes of harvesting and cattle raising, a couple of which show asiatics working for the stela's owner. The scenes are not particularly unusual. One shows meat being cooked (figure 1, top register, left side) while another shows the foreleg of a cow being cut off for presentation to Amenyseneb (fig. 1, register 2). Another scene shows cattle being used to thresh grain (fig. 2, top register). These scenes are similar to scenes from tomb walls going back to the Old Kingdom, and similar scenes would appear on tomb walls virtually until the end of dynastic history.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Stela of Amenyseneb

Fig. 1 - Stela of Amenyseneb
       This steal is double sided with inscriptions on both the front and the back. One side (not pictured here) shows fields being plowed, grain being harvested and food being prepared. Some of the laborers in this scene are marked as Asiatics, illustrating the increased presence of foreigners in Egypt during the end of the Middle Kingdom. The side that is pictured here has Amenyseneb shown on the left opposite his father (?). Between the two men is a large ankh. Unlike the stela shown in the previous post, this ankh is only hollow in the loop, the rest of the ankh is deeply incised, but is not hollowed out (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 2 - Stela of Amenyseneb showing Wepwawet
Fig. 3 - Sela of Amenyseneb, showing his mother (lower right)
     Amenyseneb is shown with his hands raised in a gesture of adoration or respect. He is wearing a kilt and a broad collar which still has green paint on it (see fig. 2). "Wepwawet of Upper Egypt" is represented as a jackal above Amenyseneb's head. It is possible that "Wepwawet of Lower Egypt" was originally shown above Amenseneb's father, but we cannot be sure as that portion of the stela is broken off (Oppenheim, Adela, ed. Egypt Transformed, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015, pp. 268 - 9). The mother of the stela's owner kneels in front of her son, to her right his two sisters are shown (see fig. 3, lower right).

     This man is known from two other stelae, one of which bears the name of the Thirteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Khendjer.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

An Odd Dynasty Twelve Stela

     One of the more unusual objects in the Met's Middle Kingdom special exhibit is this stela of the butler Senebef. The open work ankh in the center may have been designed to allow the scent of incense from the "nearby temple of Osiris"  filter through to the deceased as the inscription describes (Oppenheim, Adela. Ancient Egypt Transformed, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015, p. 268).

Open work carving such as this ankh is unusual in Egyptian art in any time period, and only a very few other stelae with an open work ankh are known. There is one other such object in this exhibit and I will talk about it in the next post.

     The three mumiform figures are of Senebef, his mother and a man named Ipta (Senebef's father?). The two men clutch the fringed end of their shroud, a pose which occurs in numerous other statues and stelae from this period. The hieroglyphs on this steal are carved rather crudely, as are the faces and figures of the three persons shown.

     The provenance of this object is uncertain, but the reference to the "nearby temple of Osiris" suggests that it was found at Abydos.  It is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Copyright (c) 2015 by John Freed

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Middle Kingdom at the Met

Fig. 1 - Wooden statue of a serving girl, tomb of Meketre
     I finally got to the Metropolitan Museum to see their special exhibit "Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom". It is simply one of the best, and largest, special exhibits I have ever seen. There are over two hundred individual pieces in the show, many of which are among the most interesting pieces of Egyptian Art that I have ever seen.

     The pieces range from large stone statuary to small ivory figurines, dreadful First Intermediate Period stelae to exquisite Twelfth Dynasty stelae, the wonderful jewelry of Princess Sit Hathor Yunet and the famous wooden daily life models of Meketre (see figure 1).

     The accompanying exhibition guide makes the point that the Middle Kingdom is all too often overlooked by both scholars and the interested public. The Old Kingdom has the pyramids while the New Kingdom has the famous temples at Thebes and the Valley of the Kings. The Middle Kingdom by comparison has small, unimpressive and shoddily built pyramids of the Twelfth Dynasty and very little else that has been preserved in the way of large scale architecture.

     Over the course of my posts for the rest of the year, and into the new year as well, I will cover many of the pieces in the exhibit and try to tell some of the story of Egypt's Middle Kingdom.