Stele of Ameny
Middle Kingdom, late Dynasty 12 – early Dynasty
Place of Origin: Egypt, Probably from Abydos
Overall: 49 x 64 x 9 cm (19 5/16 x 25 3/16 x 3 9/16 in.) Weight: 49.9 kg (110 lb.)
Medium or Technique
Stanford and Norma Jean Calderwood Gallery (Gallery 119)
Abydos, the great sanctuary of the funerary god Osiris, was one of ancient Egypt’s most sacred places. During the Middle Kingdom, officials ranging from relatively humble civil servants to the most powerful administrators in the central government commissioned monuments along the approach to the temple in the hope of achieving immortality by sharing in the benefits of the god’s cult. It was most likely at that site that a police captain named Ameny dedicated this limestone stela on behalf of himself, his wife, and his parents. Its symmetrical composition suggests that it may have formed the central panel of a small shrine lined with decorated limestone slabs.
The stela is competently carved in sunk relief. The composition centers on a mat piled with offerings of meat, vegetables, and bread. Ameny sits on the left and faces right, the prominent position in Egyptian relief scenes; his wife Neferhathor sits beside him. Ameny wears a short kilt and broadcollar, along with the shoulder-length wig and short goatee fashionable among Middle Kingdom men. In his hand is a folded handkerchief, evidently a symbol of rank, that was shown in the hands of dignitaries since the time of the Old Kingdom. Neferhathor wears a long, straight sheath dress, a broadcollar, and a tripartite wig, and sits with one arm around her husband’s shoulder and the other holding his arm in a gesture of affection. Facing them on the right of the stela and similarly attired are Ameny’s parents, Yotsen and Nebuemmer. In the register below, four servants bearing additional offerings converge on the center of the stela. Hieroglyphic labels identify each of them: the two on the left are from Ameny’s household, while the two on the right attend to Yotsen and his wife. Three lines of text at the top of the stela request offerings for both Ameny and Yotsen, invoking Osiris, lord of Abydos, and the canine funerary god Wepwawet. The content and style of the stela suggest a date late in Dynasty 12 or early in Dynasty 13. While stelae representing individual officials, sometimes with long inscriptions, were common earlier in the Middle Kingdom, the end of Dynasty 12 witnessed an increase in the popularity of stelae portraying larger groups of relatives and colleagues. The style of the figures, with their heavily lidded eyes and hollow cheeks, also places them in the late Middle Kingdom. The ornamental frieze at the top, which copies a decorative element found in tombs, is a feature that became common early in Dynasty 13.
Probably from Abydos. By 1970, property of the Kevorkian Foundation; December 18, 1970, Parke-Bernet sale, New York, lot 23, purchased by the MFA.
Seth K. Sweetser Fund