Relief of a Nobleman

The exact context of this relief of a nobleman is unknown. The anonymous noble’s garment and elaborate wig with lotus flower fillet and intricate locks are perfect attire for an offering scene in the underworld.

The relief clearly illustrates the legacy of the artistic style championed by Akhenaten, Egypt’s so-called heretic pharaoh. The projection of the face and neck beyond the wig and the deep carving of the rear of the head are details that continued long after Akhenaten’s reign. The elegant treatmnent suggests that the relief comes from a tomb at Saqqara, a vast cemetery in the region of Memphis. At the left a hand holds a sistrum (or rattle) and a flower. The missing person was surely a woman, either the wife or some other relative of the deceased.

Relief of a Nobleman
Relief of a Nobleman

With this figure, as with all representations in the Egyptian collection, Egyptologists look closely at the hair, the clothing and other clues for an understanding of the subject. Can you see the detailed lines on the cloth on his body? Those represent fine pleats, and the wig he is wearing is clearly of very fine, detailed braids as well, with the lovely band at the top. These details give clues to his social status. In addition, only the wealthiest in Egyptian society could afford such detailed work for their tombs .

New Kingdom, Ramesside Period, 19th-20th Dynasty, ca. 1292-1070 BC. Painted limestone. From Saqqara. Now in the Brooklyn Museum. 36.261