16 x 13 ¾ x 1 ¼ inches
Museum purchase with funds provided by the Jefferson Patterson Endowment Fund
The vertical inscription at the left of the carved figures of a nobleman and his wife reads, “The bakers of the goddess Mut, Iny”; however, the inscription may not refer specifically to the figures shown here, who appear to be persons of rank. To the right of the noblewoman are the legs, feet, and hand of another seated, unknown family member. This incised, painted relief sculpture may have come from the necropolis of Thebes where similar painted reliefs are found. The people depicted here may have been gathered to partake in a funerary banquet – a subject befitting a burial chamber. The nobleman, possibly the owner of the tomb from which this relief was taken, is seated on a chair with lion feet, a style that was especially popular from the time of the Old Kingdom (2680 – 2258 BCE) onward. The elegant, graceful gestures and overlapping design characterizes the taste of the XVII dynasty.
Egyptian wall reliefs and paintings are characterized by a style not reliant upon one-point, Renaissance linear perspective. Egyptian artists depicted reality by its most characteristic, individual components, balancing what one knows with what one sees against the limitations of the medium. For example, we know that the nobleman and his wife would have been seated side-by-side at a banquet or official gathering; however, the artisan who carved this relief knew that if he were to attempt to render this, the profile of the wife would obscure that of her husband.
Therefore, he shifts the wife to her husband’s right, while implying to the viewer that the figures, nevertheless, are seated next to each other. Some scholars theorize that the husband being seated in front of his wife is a reflection of the dominant role of men over women in ancient Egyptian society.