TITLE: Wall relief representing a dignitary called Iti
CULTURE: Ancient Egypt
PERIOD: Old Kingdom, 4th Dynasty, 2613 - 2495 BC
DIMENSIONS: Height 73 cm; width 36.5 cm
PRICE: 55,000 euros
PROVENANCE: Private collection E. B., Barcelona, Spain, acquired in the 1980s.
CONDITION: Fragment of a doorjamb in good state of preservation with some general erosion and chips to both sides of the piece. The piece has not been restored.
Delicately carved wall relief showing a high dignitary carved in high relief on soft limestone. He is depicted upright with a leg held forward as if in movement. Given the typical perspective used for figures in Egyptian depictions, it is impossible to know if this is the left or right leg. In all Egyptian periods the positioning showed the head and legs of people in profile but the torso as seen from a frontal view. The figure wears a short wig. The relief carving of the locks of the hair stands out. A garment covers the body down to the thighs, leaving the right shoulder uncovered. The anatomical details of the body are not clearly marked, with the exception of the knee bulges. The nails of the hands and feet are, however, finely detailed. The figure holds in his hands a sceptres and a rod, both of which are attributes which indicate the importance of the person represented.
Above the figure we find four vertical registers of hieroglyphic text worked in low relief, giving the name and role of the religious administrator:
“The priest wab of the King, the inspector of magistracies, Iti (the name of the person).”
The Egyptians believed in the afterlife and thought that it was necessary to preserve the bodies of the deceased for this second life. They converted the corpses into mummies. To do this they dried the bodies and bandaged them, and afterwards kept them in sarcophagi placed in tombs. Around them was placed everything that was thought to be necessary for the deceased in the other world: clothing, food, jewellery, etc.
The largest tombs were those of the pharaohs such as, for example, the pyramids or the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. In the Old Kingdom, mastabas made their appearance, made up of two elements: a superstructure of a rectangular shape with inclined walls and with different chambers and chapels for worshiping and for storing provisions, and a substructure, the real funeral chamber, access to which was through a vertical shaft that later was covered over to hide the entrance and thus prevent sacking. This sort of tomb evolved over time in the following dynasties to become a more discrete structure, making it even harder for thieves to enter. Hypogea appear: tombs carved out inside a mountain. There were hidden ones and others that had entrances so that acts of worship could be carried out and offerings left for the deceased owners.
Both in the mastabas and the hypogea the walls were painted or carved with different scenes illustrating the life of the deceased. Some included written accounts of their life, scenes of daily life, with the owner in activities like fishing or hunting or holding feasts. In the chapel where there was a table for offerings and which was the place for direct communication with the dead, there was always a larger image of the latter accompanied by an entourage carrying offerings, either of foodstuffs or objects for everyday use. The Egyptians believed that everything that could be represented in an image could come to life, and thus if the descendants did not come to visit there always remained the provisions depicted in the reliefs.