• Egypt, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty (c. 1300 BC)
  • Polychrome limestone
  • Inv. 160

Stele of the scribe Iry

The decoration on this limestone stele with a rounded top is divided into two sections. The upper part shows a shrine where King Ahmose (the founder of the 18th Dynasty) and Queen Ahmose-Nefertari are depicted sitting on their thrones. The pharaoh is wearing the kheprech (blue crown) and holding the ankh symbol in his right hand and the royal sceptre in his left. The queen, sitting next to him, is wearing a crown with tall feathers, and has her left arm around her husband in an intimate yet commonly seen gesture in images of couples. A heavily laden table of offerings stands in front of them.

The lower section shows the scribe Iry, kneeling and saying a prayer that appears in hieroglyphs in front of him. The figures of the king and queen above, the scribe below, the shrine, the table of offerings and the jars are in low relief, while the hieroglyphs and vertical separating lines are incised. There are also traces of polychrome: the green stems of the offerings on the altar, the brownish tone (as established by the artistic canons) of the scribe’s body, the black hieroglyphs and the separating red lines.

In addition, the shrine strongly suggests one of the canons of Egyptian art: altering the form of reality so as to offer a better understanding of what is really shown. The shrine would actually have been closed at the side, but it is here shown as if the side were transparent so that the figures can be seen inside.

MacGregor Collection. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Howard Carter at the sale of the MacGregor Collection, Sotheby’s, London, June/July 1922.

Araújo 2006

Luís Manuel de Araújo, Egyptian Art. Calouste Gulbenkian Collection. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2006, pp. 80–3, cat. 10.

Updated on 22 april 2022

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