Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Reliefs from the tomb of Bakenrenef

Late Period, Saite
Dynasty 26
reign of Psamtik I
664–610 B.C.
From Egypt, Memphite Region, Saqqara, East of the Step Pyramid, Tomb of Bakenrenef
Limestone, paint
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1911
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 123
These reliefs come from the monumental rock-cut tomb of the vizier, Bakenrenef, who served under Psamtik I of the 26th Dynasty. The blocks from around the false door (11.150.50a) and the ceiling blocks to the right (11.150.50b1) come from the innermost room and the pillared hall; the remainder (11.150.50c; 11.150.d1-9) derive from a smaller room with walls covered with magical texts.
Bakenrenef was a vizier of Psamtik I and played a major role in the early 26th Dynasty. He built his imposing tomb into the steep rocks at the eastern desert edge of Saqqara amidst other contemporaneous rock tombs, a true “Jenseitspalast” comparable to the Saite rock tombs of Thebes. Since his monument is a rock tomb, it does not have above ground structures as the Theban tombs do. His was the largest and best decorated Late Period tomb at Saqqara. The interior was reused for other burials during the 30th Dynasty and therefore includes nine intrusive burial shafts.

The poor quality of bedrock at Saqqara required a casing of the rock surface with Tura limestone blocks. The tomb was superbly inscribed with religious texts but has remarkably few remains of figure decoration. The inscribed parts of the tomb were still largely intact when the Lepsius expedition discovered and copied it in the middle of the 19th century. Between 1885 and 1910, however, the decoration was vandalized and most reliefs were torn away from the walls, destabilizing the structure. Many decorated blocks are now in the museums of Cairo, Berlin, Munich, Chicago and others. Bakenrenef's limestone sarcophagus is now in the National Archaeological Museum of Florence.

In 1908, the Metropolitan Museum purchased about 50 inscribed blocks from Maurice Nahman in Cairo. They originated from three sections of the tomb and are correspondingly displayed in Gallery 123 (with several fragments in Gallery 130):
a) 11.150.50b: One large, curving block from the vaulted ceiling of the pillared hall, Lepsius A; probably northwest corner (LD III pl. 259).
b) 11.150.50c, d: A group of blocks from the southwest corner of the transverse antechamber, Lepsius B (mirroring LD III pl. 262 on the northwest corner)
c) 11.150.50a: A group of blocks from the west wall of the sanctuary, Lepsius C: Text panels from both sides of the central niche (LD III, pl. 268)

Since 1974 an Italian expedition under Edda Bresciani (University of Pisa) has worked in the tomb, primarily conserving the fragile rock that threatens to collapse.

The plan of the tomb mirrors the organization of a temple. The rock façade was preceded by a pylon-like structure that opened into a large entrance portico with 4 columns. This room led into a longitudinal, three-aisled, vaulted hall with a double row of 3 pillars (Lepsius A), which corresponds to a hypostyle hall. Behind the pillared hall is a transverse vaulted room (Lepsius B), corresponding to the hall for guest deities. The last room is the offering hall with the false door (Lepsius C). One interesting feature is a corridor, which surrounds the innermost part of the rooms in the north, west and south. This corridor would have a parallel in the ambulatory surrounding the bark shrine of Late Period temples. The tomb of Monthuemhat at Thebes has a similar corridor.

The inscriptions of the tomb include scenes from the Book of the Dead and the Amduat, which need more comprehensive study.

Dieter Arnold 2015
Purchased by the museum from Maurice Nahman, Cairo, 1908.

Lepsius, Carl Richard 1849. Denkmaeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien : nach den Zeichnungen der von seiner Majestät dem Könige von Preussen Friedrich Wilhelm IV, nach diesen Ländern gesendeten und in den Jahren 1842-1845 ausgeführten wissenschaftlichen Expedition auf Befehl Seine (LD). Berlin, pp. 177-81; pls. vol. I, pl. 40; vol. III pls. 259–67.

El Naggar, Salah 1986. "Étude préliminaire d'un ciel voûté de l'hypogée de Bakenrenef (L.24) à Saqqara." In Egitto e Vicino Oriente, 9, pp. 15–38.

Bresciani, Edda 1988. Tomba di Bakenrenef (L.24) Attività del cantiere Scuola 1985-1987. Pisa: Giardini editori e stampatori in Pisa, pl. 23b.

Bresciani, Edda 1990. "L'attività archeologica dell'Università di Pisa in Egitto, a Saqqara (1989) e a Medinet Madi." In Egitto e Vicino Oriente, 13, pp. 1–27.

Bresciani, Edda 1990. "L'hypogée du vizir Bakenrenef." In Les dossiers d'archéologie, 146–47, pp. 110–13.

Betrò, Maria Carmela 1990. "Visir: il progetto egittologico-informatico per il ripristino della decorazione nella tomba di Bakenrenef." In Geo-archeologia, 1, pp. 79–91.

Betrò, Maria Carmela and Flora Silvano 1991. "Progetto visir: la simulazione nel restauro della tomba di Bakenrenef a Saqqara (L 24)." In Egitto e Vicino Oriente, 14–15, pp. 5–8.

Betrò, Maria Carmela 1994. "Visir: il progetto egittologico-informatico per il ripristino della decorazione nella tomba di Bakenrenef." In Informatique et Égyptologie, 9, pp. 17–23.

Related Objects

Relief from around the false door in the tomb of Bakenrenef, 3 sections

Date: 664–610 B.C. Medium: Limestone, paint Accession: 11.150.50a On view in:Gallery 123

Part of a Ceiling from the Tomb of Bakenrenef

Date: 664–610 B.C. Medium: Limestone, paint Accession: 11.150.50b1 On view in:Gallery 123

Relief from the tomb of Bakenrenef, wall from small room with texts and niches

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Relief from the tomb of Bakenrenef, wall from small room with texts and niches

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Tomb Chapel of Raemkai: North Wall

Date: ca. 2446–2389 B.C. Medium: Limestone, paint Accession: 08.201.1c On view in:Gallery 102