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Work Two-sided stele of Dedia, master draftsman for Amun

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs

Dieux d'Abydos : Osiris, Horus et Isis

© Musée du Louvre/C. Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
Religious and funerary beliefs

Geneviève Pierrat-Bonnefois

With its exceptional thickness, the Dedia stele resembles a small chapel. Its rich decoration and dedications to the gods of Abydos suggest that it was consecrated to Dedia and his ancestors in this ancient holy city, dedicated to the cult of Osiris (god of the dead). Its elaborate composition is worthy of its designer, who was the master draftsman of the temple of Amun.

A tabernacle

This monolith represents a tabernacle for the god Osiris, his wife Isis, and their son, the falcon god Horus. These three divinities seem to emerge out of the stone from which they are carved. The large statues of gods in the rock-cut temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel, hewn into the rock at the rear of the cavern when the hypogeum was hollowed out, are the best-known examples of this type of statue.
The dedicators themselves, however, are engraved in low relief at the gods' feet; they are bearing trays piled high with offerings of food and bouquets of water lilies. They are represented on the outside, turned toward the three gods at the back of their niche. The magic of the sculptor's art thereby served to create an almost three-dimensional representation of a divine chapel in a mere block of stone, revealing the reason for the unusual thickness of this stele.

Several generations under the protection of Osiris

The back of this monument is a stele in its own right, distinguished from the front by very fine flat engraving. On the lower register, Dedia and his wife are portrayed pouring libations. Dedia inscribed his name under the list of his ancestors-all master draftsmen for Amun-and their wives, placing himself under the protection of the great gods of Abydos, who are engraved around the arch; he thereby associated his ancestors with his act of piety toward the god of the dead in his city of Abydos (a great pilgrimage center for the ancient Egyptians). As a result, the surface resembles inscription rather than graphic representation, and the figures are barely discernible from the writing. However, the inscription is presented with all the skill of the draftsman-designer, reflecting a well-ordered vision of the world in which ancestors are depicted below (among the living) and gods above. The artist exploited the genius of Egyptian writing to the full in this design.

A family of draftsmen

Dedia descended from five generations of master draftsmen of the temple of Amun, now world-famous by the name of Karnak. Such a family structure ensured the preservation of artistic, technical, and formal traditions from one generation to the next. Dedia held office during a particularly glorious period in the history of the temple: the pharaoh Sethos I decided to create a huge pillared room-the largest ever constructed. No doubt Dedia was put in charge of designing the vast scenes depicting the king among the gods that even today adorn the high walls of the famous hypostyle hall.


G. ANDREU, M. H. RUTSCHOWSCAYA, C. ZIEGLER, L'Egypte au Louvre, Hachette, Paris, 1997, p. 140-141, 254, notice 63)

Catalogue de l'exposition Mémoires d'Egypte , Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, 1990, p. 67, 68, notice n 66)

Catalogue de l'exposition Naissance de l'Ecriture, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux , Paris, 1982, p.76.

Technical description

  • Dieux d'Abydos : Osiris, Horus et Isis

    règne de Séthi Ier (1294 - 1279 avant J.-C.), 19e dynastie

  • diorite

    H. : 80 cm. ; L. : 48,50 cm.

  • C 50

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    The New Kingdom
    Room 642
    Vitrine 1 : Dieux de l'époque ramesside

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