6th Dynasty Limestone Wall Panel Depicting a Seated Man - X.0373
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 2323 BC to 2152 BC
Dimensions: 18.125" (46.0cm) high x 12" (30.5cm) wide
Collection: Egyptian
Style: 6th Dynasty
Medium: Limestone


The image depicts an elite member of Egyptian society who was the owner of the tomb from which this forceful vignette came. The owner is represented seated on a luxurious chair, designed with a curvilinear bolster-like back, and feline feet themselves resting upon inverted conical casters decorated with a series of concentric rings. In keeping with ancient Egyptian conventions, the tomb owner is bare-chested and, presumably, bare footed. He wears a simple, undecorated linen kilt, wrapped around his waist and secured into place with a belt. His accessories are limited to a broad collar, its multiple strands symbolically representing floral forms from which such attributes were originally crafted. He wears a short, bobbed wig arranged with parallel rows of short, tightly styled curls.

The tomb owner is shown facing to the left and is holding one attribute in each hand. In general, only depictions of standing tomb owners represent them holding an object in each hand; seated depictions are generally shown holding only one attribute, and that attribute is usually a staff traditionally held in the hand of the elevated far arm, as it is indeed held in our relief. Our tomb owner appears to be holding a second attribute in his lowered hand as well. This attribute may perhaps to be identified as a shorter baton. The staff and baton are standard attributes for elite male members of Egyptian society during the Old Kingdom. Although rare, there are parallels for seated tomb owners holding a baton in one hand and a staff in the other from this period.

This vignette is executed in sunk relief, whereby the images are sculpted into the stone at a depth below the horizontal plane of the surface of the block. Such a technique was commonly employed for the decoration of exterior walls so that the rays of the sun would be “caught” in the depths of the sculpting, thereby enabling the relief to be seen more clearly.

The consummate manner in which the details of the face are executed deserves mention, particularly since the expression is forceful and somewhat realistic in its appearance. This departure from the expected idealism of the facial features together with the unusual, and extremely interesting, appearance of an attribute in each hand of the tomb owner, suggests a dating for this uncommon depiction in Dynasty VI or somewhat later.


Yvonne Harpur, Decoration in Egyptian Tombs of the Old Kingdom (London 1987), page 448, a depiction of Ku-en-uha, seated with his wife on a similarly designed chair. Here this seated tomb owner holds scepter in his lowered hand and a staff in his elevated hand, exactly paralleling the two attributed held in the hands of our figure.

This magnificent limestone wall panel originally decorated a 6th Dynasty temple or palace structure. It is even possible that this panel once stood inside the shafts of a royal pyramid. Depicted is a dignitary seated upon a seat, holding a sekhem scepter in his left hand, an Ancient Egyptian symbol of power. While a hieroglyphic character in the form of a sekhem was often included in the names of pharaohs from the 3rd Dynasty onwards, officials in the court of the pharaoh were traditionally depicted carrying this staff. The scepter was also utilized by priest presiding over religious ceremonies. However, in this context, the staff is held in the right hand. Thus, it is likely that this seated man represents a dignitary who was a high-ranking member of the royal court. His hair is closely cropped. He wears a broad beaded collar and a short skirt. His body has been represented in a fashion characteristic of Egyptian art with profile views of the head and legs and a frontal view of the upper torso. - (X.0373)




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