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Relief Blocks from the Tomb of the Vizier Nespeqashuty

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Funerary Gallery 3, Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Gallery, 3rd Floor
Tomb reliefs magically repeated the rituals required to transport the deceased to the afterlife and maintain him or her once there. The wealthier the individual, the more elaborate the decoration of the tomb. Nespeqashuty was a vizier, the highest ranking government official.

The decoration of Nespeqashuty’s tomb was never completed, allowing a rare glimpse into the artist’s working process. The three steps of relief carving are clearly visible here. First, each scene was drawn in color with attention paid to every detail. Next, the outline of each figure was carved and the background cut away. Finally, another carving of the figures softened the contour lines and sculpted the internal details.

The graffiti on the relief were written in both Demotic and Coptic, the two latest stages of the Egyptian language, as well as in Greek, during a thousand-year period after the tomb was prepared for Nespeqashuty. Writing graffiti in the tomb was a pious act, not vandalism.
MEDIUM Limestone
DATES ca. 664-610 B.C.E.
DYNASTY Dynasty 26
PERIOD Late Period
DIMENSIONS 12 x 18 7/8 in. (30.5 x 47.9 cm)
CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
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