About this artwork
This stela was colored with a mixture of pigment and tempera. First, however, it was sculpted in raised and sunken relief; only later were some of its surfaces embellished with black, brown, green, yellow, and white paint. It commemorates for all eternity a man named Amenemhat and his wife, Hemet. Before them are two offering tables stacked with food. Their son appears in the upper right at a smaller scale. In addition to the hieroglyphs in the field, a brief text also appears on the top and right border.
Egyptian art is highly symbolic. The left side of the composition is the dominant position; the placement there of Amenemhat and Hemet conveys their importance. He stands in front of his wife, stressing that he is the head of the household. The social difference between them is indicated by the color of their skin. His is dark reddish brown and hers is yellow; he is active outdoors, while the home is her realm. They both wear traditional clothing and jewelry.
The goal of the artist was to immortalize the essential elements of his subjects. This representation reflects conventions for portraying the human form as a composite diagram made up of different views. Amenemhat and Hemet are shown with their heads in profile, their shoulders frontal, and their chests, buttocks, and legs in profile. These positions offered the most characteristic and comprehensive views of the human form. Also, depth is represented by height, so the offerings at the top of the composition should be understood as the farthest away.
The brightly colored, raised-relief hieroglyphs within the scene record the names of the subjects, their lineage, and voice offerings, which refer to the belief that offerings could consist of actual food, images of food, written references to it, or the recitation of prayers that call for provisions. Carved in sunken relief and painted blue, hieroglyphs along the top and right record a conventional prayer for food to sustain Amenemhat and Hemet in the afterlife.
- Ancient Egyptian
- Stela of Amenemhat and Hemet
- Made 1956 BC–1877 BC
- Limestone and pigment
- The hieroglyphic text names the deceased and family and calls upon the god Osiris to grant them sustenance in the afterlife. [top] “A gift the king gives consisting of 1,000 of bread, beer, oxen, fowl, alabaster, linen, provisions, and every good thing upon which a god lives” [right] “The one revered before Osiris, Lord of Busiris, the Great God, Lord of Abydos” [hieroglyphic captions] “Amenemhat” “Invocation offerings for the ka (soul) of the God’s Father Amenemhat, born of Ip” “His wife, whom he loves, Hemet, born of Itu”
- 31.1 × 41.7 × 6.7 cm (12 1/4 × 16 3/8 × 2 5/8 in.)
- Museum Purchase Fund