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Work The harpist's stele
Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Objects from everyday life
The harpist's stele
© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps
Objects from everyday life
This small, brightly colored wooden stele, a testimony of individual piety, is typical of the Third Intermediate Period. The scene portraying the deceased in front of a deity is traditional, but the originality of the stele resides in the fact that the usual image of the deceased, standing with raised arms, was replaced by that of a harpist.
An original sun worshiper
This small, arched stele is made of stuccoed and painted wood. The single decorated side depicts a harpist worshiping the sun. The scene is framed by a visual overview of the universe. The rounded sign for the sky along the arch is painted blue. "Was" scepters on each side support this sign. A thin horizontal strip below the figures represents the earth. A series of protective symbols are placed under the arch: two wedjat eyes frame a shen ring over a stream of water and a small vase. In this scene, the adororation is not depicted by the deceased raising his arms to a god, but rather by a kneeling harpist, his mouth open as he recites his hymn. The musician is clad in pleated linen. He is accompanying himself on an angle harp, decorated with the head of a pharaoh. Opposite, the falcon-headed god Ra-Horakhty is seated on a throne placed on a platform. He is wrapped in a mummy-shaped sheath and wears the sun disk crown adorned with a uraeus and. He holds the flail and crook scepters in his hands. The two figures are separated by an offering consisting of an ewer and basin, and a lotus flower.
A six-column hieroglyph, painted against a yellow background, is placed above the figures. The column on the far left refers to Ra- Horakhty and reveals the identity of the god: "Ra-Horakhty, the great god, lord of the sky." The other five columns refer to the harpist. They contain the start of a hymn to the sun: "Adore Ra when he rises," followed by the title and name of the harpist: "the singer of Amun, lord of the thrones of the Two Lands [Egypt], who resides in Thebes, Djedkhonsuiuefank" as well as an offering formula.
Nature and provenance
A large number of private steles, dispersed among various museums, are similar to tis stele in the Louvre. These small monuments are made of stuccoed and brightly painted wood, and are decorated with a scene presenting a deceased facing a deity, generally a solar god, and sometimes Osiris.
These steles come from the region of Thebes, and most were made during the Third Intermediate Period. They were designed for tombs, and a few of these objects were discovered in burial vaults.
- ZIEGLER C., BOVOT J.-L., Art et archéologie : L’Egypte ancienne, Ecole du Louvre / Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux / Documentation française, Paris, 2001, p. 254-255, fig. 153.
- ANDREU G., RUTSCHOWSCAYA M. H., ZIEGLER C., L’Egypte au Louvre, Hachette, Paris, 1997, p. 174, notice n° 84.
- Musiques au Louvre. Hommages à Michel Laclotte, Paris, 1994, p. 22-23.
- ZIEGLER Ch., Musée du Louvre Département des Antiquités Egyptiennes - Catalogue des instruments de musique égyptiens, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 1979, p. 99.
The harpist's stele
Third Intermediate Period, 1069-664 BC
Stuccoed and painted wood
H.: 29.5 cm; W.: 22.4 cm; D.: 2 cm
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