Egypt – Pictures
Senwosret III (about 1874 – 1855 BC) was the last of the great Pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom. This statue from Western Thebes breaks radically with artistic convention. The old idea of timeless youth was replaced by a sombre realism – a mood echoed in contemporary literature. With its aged and earnest features it resembles the classic Roman portraits of the Emperor Vespasian.
Six such statues were erected in the mortuary Temple of Montuhotep II, paying tribute to the King who had founded the Middle Kingdom two centuries earlier, and who continued to be revered.
Stele of Intef, receiving an offering from the small male figure in front of him. Behind are theree of his wives, Mery, Iutu, and Iru.
This dates to the end of the first Intermediate Period, the 11th dynasty, when Montuhotep II was pushing north and eventually overcame the Herakleopolis dynasty and reunited Egypt.
In the upper half, Sheshe and his wife sit at tables laid with slices of bread. Small images and text invoke more offerings. In the lower section, Sheshi and his wife are repeated, but in a playful detail, a son and daughter call for their parents’ attention.
Sheshi was a royal scribe and inspector of priests, likely those performing the mortuary cult of Khufu in the dead king’s pyramid complex.
This type of monument is known as a ‘false door’, the recess in the bottom half being a door through which only the spirit could pass.
Stele of Amenemhat
The stele shows the owner seated at a table of offerings. In the text above is the usual prayer for offerings, ensuring Amenemhat’s well-being in the hereafter. It asks for ‘bread, beer, beef, fowl, oil vessels, linen, and everything good and pure on which a god lives. All these, apart from the linen, is depicted.
Note that the usual Egyptian convention of showing bodies from the side, except for the shoulders, which are shown straight on, has caused the sculptor some difficulty and the arm that is extended, which should be a right hand, in fact shows a left hand and the correct right hand is carved beneath it. But there is a fine collection of offerings to the left – see the very realistic duck and also the calf’s head.
What did a Palace gateway look like? Sadly no palaces survive from the Old Kingdom, but this carving represents a picture of the facade of a palace. At the bottom centre is the actual gateway and at either side there are three tall columns surmounted by symbols which are possibly flags. At the top, the hieroglyphs tell us that it belongs to Nibunesut, from the provincial town of Dendera
On to Wooden models
Back to the Middle Kingdom