Royal relief depicting sunshade bearer - 958.49.2_1


Royal relief depicting sunshade bearer

Geography: Originally from Giza, but excavated at Pyramid of Amenemhat I at Lisht, Egypt
Date: c. 2613-2494 BC
Period: Reign of Khufu, 4th Dynasty, Old Kingdom
33 x 46.5 cm
Object number: 958.49.2
On view
Gallery Location:Galleries of Africa: Egypt

This relief is attributed to the funerary temple of King Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza.  At the upper limit can be seen the bottom of a row of five-pointed stars representing the sky, suggesting that the  piece came from the top of a scene on which a series of attendants facing right . To the right are traces of two large hieroglyphs, the top one representing "Upper Egypt" and the lower one "protection."  The large scale of these signs suggests that they were connected with a large figure, presumably an Egyptian king. They would have been part of an inscription identifying and asking for divine blessings for the king, in this case almost certainly the 4th Dynasty Khufu.

The central portion of the relief preserves the upper portion of a man facing right with a long wig in which the individual tresses have been marked.  His face is beautifully carved with fine features typical of Dynasty 4. His left arm is bent with his hand over his chest holding a long stick with a knob at the end.  This is the handle of a sunshade in the shape of a lily pad which can be seen to the right of the man's head.  The bottom of the sunshade would taper to two points, but these are hidden behind the man's shoulders.  To his left, another sunshade in the shape of a lily pad can be seen indicating a whole procession of attendants probably following the figure of the king such as preserved in the decoration of the funerary temples of other Old Kingdom kings, such as Neuserre and Pepi II. The black paint of the figure's hair and the red paint of his skin have survived, but there is no trace of colour on the sunshades.

The relief was recovered from the west side of the Pyramid of Amenemhat I at Lisht, south of Memphis. Amenemhat I is the first king of the 12th Dynasty, who moved the capital north from Thebes to the region of Lisht. No doubt the royal architects examined previous royal tombs in the Memphite area to gain ideas for the plan, decorative program and perhaps even building techniques for the new structure. After a period of abandonment in the First Intermediate Period, it is likely that many of these structures were in disrepair, perhaps having been damaged by an earthquake. In any case, the builders of the Lisht Pyramid of Amenemhat I were clearly able to collect blocks from older buildings which they incorporated into the structure of Amenemhat I’s tomb. It may just have been a practical matter of reused material, although some scholars have suggested that the re-used blocks could have served to connect Amenemhat I with previous kings in an attempt to legitimize his reign.

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