Funeral Stela of Menthuhotpe from the cemetery at Abydos
Visual Analysis of Funeral Stela of Menthuhotpe from the cemetery at Abydos
Several weeks ago I visited the Museum of Man- specifically the exhibit of Egyptian artifacts. I observed the Funerary Stela of Menthuhotpe. This piece is obviously from the early Egyptians, probably during the Old Kingdom Dynasty, which spanned several thousand years around 2000 B.C.. The piece’s resemblance to the reliefs during this time period is striking (one example of similar work is the relief in Ti’s mastaba which shows him watching a hippo hunt created between 2450 and 2350 B.C.).
This is an example of a stela or stele. A stela is a carved or inscribed stone slab or pillar. This piece could be a stele carved in sandstone, or perhaps, painted limestone. Paint used in this Although the Museum of Man calls it a stela, it reminds me of a stele- which Gardner’s Western Perspective defines as a carved stone slab erected to commemorate a historical event or, in some other cultures, a grave (p. 23). The similarity of these two definitions is striking, so obviously the two terms refer to the same type of art. Whatever it is called, it is obviously what is represented in this example.
This stela re-creation is about 2.5 feet tall which could make sense if it were simply a relief placed in the tomb of a noble person or royalty. My initial thought is that this piece seems too small. If it were in fact placed within the tomb, it is an appropriate size, although portrayals subjects in isolation are rarely found in early Egyptian art. Typically portraits of this size would be memorials to the deceased, though this was a practice more common to the Romans during the Hadriac Empire, than to the early Egyptians. I have to wonder if this re-creation is a representation of a much larger relief whose scale may have been significant enough to cover an entire wall.
The composition, or arrangement of figures in this piece, focus on the individual who is centrally located. He is framed by a solid strip which borders him on three sides, and is capped by multicolored stripes which line the top of this slightly erratic piece. The multicolored stripes draw the eye vertically downward to the human depiction. These colorful elements, though interesting, seem to...