Relief of King Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II

Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11, reign of Mentuhotep II
2061–2010 B.C.

Findspot: Egypt, Deir el-Bahri, Mortuary temple of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II


Length x width x depth: 35 x 25.5 x 12 cm (13 3/4 x 10 1/16 x 4 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Out on Loan

On display at Houston Museum of Natural Science, TX, May 17, 2013 – June 30, 2018


The Ancient World



Only one major building has survived from the reign of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II, the king who reunified Egypt at the end of the First Intermediate Period to found the Middle Kingdom. The spectacularly innovative funerary temple at Deir el-Bahri in western Thebes was begun soon after Mentuhotep took the throne, before he or his artists had seen the Old Kingdom monuments of northern Egypt. The mortuary temple therefore underwent dramatic changes in both plan and relief after the conquest of the north. While the relief in the earlier sections reflects the Theban style of the late First Intermediate Period, the later style emulates the flat relief favored by Mentuhotep’s Old Kingdom predecessors. The temple is now largely destroyed, and most of the visible remains are from the later reconfigurations. Nevertheless, tantalizing fragments of relief sculpture in the Theban style, such as this exquisitely carved head of the king, attest to the high quality of art from the early years of Mentuhotep’s reign. The sculpture is characterized by the artist’s meticulous attention to detail and the manner in which he varied the height of the relief to create a sense of depth and perspective rarely found in Egyptian art. The well-preserved paint - brick red for the skin, blue for the wig and eyebrow, and red, blue, and yellow for the inlaid diadem and uraeus serpent - add to its liveliness and immediacy. The Old Kingdom relief style, which Mentuhotep emulated during the period following the reunification, had featured very thin, almost waferlike carving, with clean lines and limited interior detail. In copying it, Mentuhotep’s artists produced work that, though technically very fine, lacked the vigor and intensity of their earlier work.


From Thebes, Deir el-Bahri, Mortuary Temple of Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II. 1904: excavated by the Egypt Exploration Fund, assigned to the EEF in the division of finds by the Egyptian government; voted to the MFA at EEF general meeting; received by the MFA through subscription to the Egypt Exploration Fund.
(Accession Date: October 11, 1906)

Credit Line

Egypt Exploration Fund by subscription