Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Fragment of a Leather Hanging(?) with an Erotic Scene

New Kingdom
Dynasty 18
reign of Ahmose I to Hatshepsut
ca. 1550–1458 B.C.
From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Asasif, Tomb MMA 815, found in debris during clearance, MMA excavations, 1929–30
Leather (probably goat), paint
leather: h. 16 cm (6 5/16 in); w. 18 cm (7 1/16 in); frame: h. 19.5 cm (7 11/16 in); w. 22.4 cm (8 13/16 in); th. .5 cm (3/16 in)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1931
Accession Number:
Not on view
This fragment of painted leather was found in debris during the clearance of a Middle Kingdom tomb some two hundred yards east of Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el-Bahri. No other New Kingdom material was found in this tomb, but the hairstyle of the harpist, her clothing and jewelry, and her willowy, long-waisted figure date the piece to early Dynasty 18.

The erotic nature of the scene, with its naked male dancer, suggests that this piece was inteneded for the shrine of the goddess Hathor at Deir el-Bahri. In her aspect as a fertility goddess, Hathor was associated with Bes, a fertility god who was depicted as part human, part lion. The nude figure may be either a priest or a mummer who would have worn a mask and played the part of Bes at a festival honoring the goddess. The dancer and the partially preserved man in the register above both carry an object with multiple brown strands. These have been described as scourges, but they could as easily be some sort of percussion instrument used to accompany the music and to placate the goddess.

The material is probably goat hide. Two holes in the leather were patched before the surface was painted. The lower left corner has been reinforced with a patch of red-dyed leather that holds a leather tie. This suggests that the piece was attached to an item of furniture or tied to a pole.
Museum excavations, 1929-1930. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds, 1931.

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