Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Reliefs from the Tomb of Nespekashuty

Late Period, Saite
Dynasty 26
reign of Psamtik I
656–610 B.C.
From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Deir el-Bahri, Tomb of Nespekashuty (TT 312, MMA 509), bottom of west wall of outer hall, MMA excavations, 1922–23
Limestone, paint
as displayed: L. 303 × H. 127 × Th. 10 cm (9 ft. 11 5/16 in. × 50 in. × 3 15/16 in.)
main section of relief as displayed: L. 245 × H. 106.5 × Th. 10 cm (96 7/16 × 41 15/16 × 3 15/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1923
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 127
After a lapse of some three centuries in the construction of decorated tombs at Thebes, high officials of the late 25th dynasty and the 26th dynasty again built elaborate tombs in Thebes, and decorated them with fine limestone reliefs. Earlier Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom temples and tombs at Thebes offered subject matter and inflected their style. One of these impressive projects was the tomb of Nespekashuty, the vizier installed in Thebes by Psamtik I after the removal of the Kushite Dynasty by the Assyrians. First excavated by the MMA in the 1920s, recent re-clearance and conservation of the tomb have allowed a thorough study, which is forthcoming.

The vizier Nespekashuty took over the terrace of a prominent Middle Kingdom Dynasty 11 tomb cut into the north cliff at Deir el-Bahri near the Dynasty 11 temple of Mentuhotep II and the Dynasty 18 temple of Hatshepsut. Work on Nespekashuty's tomb was never finished, and many of the extant reliefs show varying degrees of completion, ranging from preliminary drawings in red paint to finely carved reliefs. Several of these intermediate stages are preserved in this wall section.

The displayed reliefs are from the west wall of Nespekashuty's tomb; along with others from this wall in the Brooklyn Museum, they focus on his funeral. In the lowest register male and female offering bearers advance to the right. In the second register from left to right, the barge bearing Nespekashuty's coffin and the officiating mortuary priest clad in a leopard skin is being towed across the river to the necropolis on the West Bank, preceded by boats holding gesticulating mourners. The scene is particularly influenced by 18th dynasty tombs, but is also very close in some respects to the parallel scene in the contemporary tomb of Mentuemhat, suggesting a possible relationship of the artistic teams for the two tombs. The tomb's creators seem to have also felt a particular affinity for the manneristically elongated eyes and brows of the lively Theban 11th dynasty style.

The tomb saw subsequent reuses already starting from the fifth century. On the relief wall itself above the mourners on a boat may be seen a Greek text referring to worship: from this and other evidence it seems as though the tomb was thought to be the shrine of a revered individual by the Ptolemaic Period. In gallery 130 may be seen a block from the tomb that displays a drawing (23.3.761) of a Late Antique saint from the fifth-sixth centuries when the tomb was part of a Coptic monastery.
#3525: Reliefs from the Tomb of Nespekashuty
#1153: Kids: Reliefs from the Tomb of Nespekashuty
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Museum excavations, 1922-23. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds, 1923.

Pischikova, Elena 1997. "Four Reliefs from the Tomb of Nespakashuty in the Walters Art Gallery." In Journal of the Walters Art Gallery, 55/56.

Pischikova, Elena 1998. "Reliefs from the Tomb of the Vizier Nespakshuty: Reconstruction, Iconography, and Style." In Metropolitan Museum Journal, 33, entire article with numerous figures and drawings.

Pischikova, Elena 2002. "Two Ostraka from Deir el-Bahri and the Lily Flower Motif in Twenty-sixth Dynasty Theban Tombs." In Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, 39.

Pischikova, Elena 2008. "Cow Statues" in private tombs of Dynasty 26." In Servant of Mut: Studies in Honor of Richard A. Fazzini.

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