Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Estate Figure

Period:
Middle Kingdom
Dynasty:
Dynasty 12
Reign:
early reign of Amenemhat I
Date:
ca. 1981–1975 B.C.
Geography:
From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Southern Asasif, Tomb of Meketre (TT 280, MMA 1101), serdab, MMA excavations, 1920
Medium:
Wood, gesso, paint
Dimensions:
H. 112 cm (44 1/8 in.); W. 17 cm (6 11/16 in.); D. 46.7 cm (18 3/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1920
Accession Number:
20.3.7
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 105
This masterpiece of Egyptian wood carving was discovered in a hidden chamber at the side of the passage leading into the rock cut tomb of the royal chief steward Meketre, who began his career under King Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II of Dynasty 11 and continued to serve successive kings into the early years of Dynasty 12. Together with a second, very similar female figure (now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo) this statue flanked the group of twenty two models of gardens, workshops, boats, and a funeral procession that were crammed into the chamber's narrow space.
Striding forward with her left leg, the woman carries on her head a basket filled with cuts of meat. In her right hand she holds a live duck by its wings. The figure's iconography is well known from reliefs of the Old Kingdom in which rows of offering bearers were depicted. Place names were often written beside these figures identifying them as personifications of estates that would provide sustenance for the spirit of the tomb owner in perpetuity. The woman is richly adorned with jewelry and wears a dress decorated with a pattern of feathers, the kind of garment often associated with goddesses. Thus, this figure and its companion in Cairo may also be associated with the funerary goddesses Isis and Nephthys who are often depicted at the foot and head of coffins, protecting the deceased.
All the accessible rooms in the tomb of Meketre had been plundered in ancient times, but, early in 1920, the Museum's excavator, Herbert Winlock had his workmen clean out the accumulated debris in order to obtain an accurate floor plan of the tomb. It was during this cleaning operation that the small hidden chamber was discovered, filled with its almost perfectly preserved models and the two statues. In the division of finds between the Egyptian Government and the Metropolitan Museum, half of the contents went to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and half came to New York.
Excavated by the Egyptian Expedition of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1920. Acquired by the Museum in the division of finds, 1920.

Glubok, Shirley 1962. The Art of Ancient Egypt. New York: Atheneum, p. 35.

Aldred, Cyril 1980. Egyptian Art in the Days of the Pharaohs, 3100-320 BC, World of Art, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 116, no. 74.

Metropolitan Museum of Art 2012. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, p. 43.

Roehrig, Catharine H. 2015. "Estate Figure." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 226–27, no. 163.

Oppenheim, Adela 2015. "Introduction: What Was the Middle Kingdom?." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 6.

Arnold, Dorothea 2015. "Statues in Their Settings: Encountering the Divine." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 19.

Quirke, Stephen 2015. "Understanding Death: A Journey between Worlds." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 220.

Grajetzki, Wolfram 2015. "The Pharaoh's Subjects: Court and Provinces." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 120.

Arnold, Dieter and Adela Oppenheim 2015. "Excavations by The Metropolitan Museum of Art at Middle Kingdom Sites." In Ancient Egypt Transformed: The Middle Kingdom, edited by Adela Oppenheim, Dorothea Arnold, Dieter Arnold, and Kei Yamamoto. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 313.

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