Egyptian Limestone Wall Panels - X.0361 X.0362
Circa: 2323 BC to 2152 BC
Dimensions: 23.625" (60.0cm) high
Style: 6th Dynasty
During the Old Kingdom, certain stylistic conventions were first developed that would go on to dominate Egyptian art throughout its history until the arrival of Alexander the Great. Certain criteria for depicting the human figure evolved: the figure was always represented with the head in profile and the eye viewed frontally. While the pelvis, legs, and feet were shown in profile, the shoulders were represented as though seen from the front. There was little attempt as spatial illusion, no linear perspective, and no effects of light and shadow. The relief carving was generally very low, and relief sculpture and engraving were often combined on the same piece. Color was applied in flat, even tones without any consideration of the musculature beneath. Religious beliefs of the Old Kingdom dictated that, in order for the deceased to have a successful afterlife, all aspects of his daily life on earth must be continued in the great beyond. Thus it was the artist’s task to recreate the world as it was known in the most durable material available. Most wall panels of this period are decorated with scenes of daily life, including domestic, hunting, and ceremonial events.
As was often the case in Old Kingdom tombs, the image of the deceased tomb owner has been depicted twice. Presumably, the two depictions portray the deceased during different phases of his life: as a young man and again as an older, established individual. Carved in sunken relief, both representations show the deceased standing inside a frame of two vertical bands with four hieroglyphic characters floating above his head. From these hieroglyphs, also carved in sunken relief, it is possible to determine the name of the tomb owner: Nyankhnesut. On one panel, he wears a long wig, a short square-cut chin beard (a traditional sign of rank), a short kilt, and a sash that falls across his chest. He carries a scepter in his left hand, the majority of which, in accordance with Ancient Egyptian artistic conventions, is hidden behind his body. Here, he is shown as a youthful, idealized man of significant social standing.
In the other representation of Nyankhnesut, he is depicted in a similar stance with the same false beard and short skirt, only now he wears a short curled wig. In his right hand, he carries the long handle of a flywhisk, which, like the false beard, is a sign of his social rank. In his left hand, he clutches the top of a large Bat amulet that dangles from his neck. The central feature of the amulet is the head of a woman with the ears of a cow and two long curled antennae in place of horns. Bat was the goddess of the Seventh Upper Egyptian nome or province who would later become identified with the goddess Hathor, who, like her, was depicted as a cow-headed woman. Such cow-headed amulets have been unearthed in tombs dating as far back as the predynastic era, although they became increasingly popular in the late Old Kingdom and early First Intermediate Period. Since there are scarcely more than a dozen known representations of Old Kingdom officials wearing this elaborate emblem, we can be certain that Nyankhnesut was a high-ranking official in the court of an Old Kingdom pharaoh. Here, he is shown as a distinguished dignitary decorated with the attributes of an accomplished and powerful member of the royal elite. - (X.0361)