Relief of Mourning Women

Fragment of limestone raised relief with remains of original paint, representing three mourning women. They stand, facing left, each holding the flaps of their dress in one hand and beating their breast with the other. Surviving paint is concentrated in the areas of their upper and middle bodies. Some blackish and brownish patches over surface.

This relief sculpture represents three mourners coming from a funeral procession. Each holds the top of her dress in one hand and beats her bare chest with the other. This gesture of mourning in ancient Egypt was often accompanied by loud cries of grief, evident in the open mouth of the woman on the right.

Relief of Mourning Women
Relief of Mourning Women

This relief was probably located originally in a tomb chapel. Traces of paint indicate that it would originally have been quite colorful.

An image like this would have been important in an ancient Egyptian tomb. The image of mourners carved in stone meant that the deceased would be eternally mourned over, never forgotten.

Clutching, like these women are doing, and even tearing at clothing was a common gesture of mourning in ancient Egypt and other ancient Near Eastern cultures.

This relief would have been fully painted originally. You can still see black in their hair and, if you look closely at the woman to the left, an indication of fringe or a pattern on her dress.

The block is just a fragment from a much larger composition in a tomb or funerary chapel. They would have been facing towards the mummy or a depiction of the deceased. There may have even been more people in the originally composition.

Late Period, 31th Dynasty, ca. 381-343 BC. Now in the Brooklyn Museum. 1998.98