A limestone relief fragment engraved with a seated figure who is smelling a lotus flower held in one hand; on the head a cone of unguent is visible. In front of the head the personal name Piay is given (see Ranke, volume I, p. 129 no. 25).
Smelling a lotus-flower was considered receiving life. The motif of smelling the lotus does not appear on dated stelae earlier than Sesostris I, when it is rather frequently met with, but only in connection with women. From the time of Amenemhat II onwards, men, too, are represented as smelling the lotus (Pflüger 1947, p. 130, no. 5). For the ways of representation of the lotus-flower see Schäfer 1930 and Senk 1936.
To the right of the personal name a short text is visible reading (from right to left) anx=s rn=f. Since anx is an intransitive verb which cannot have an object, this is probably a corruption (metathesis) for sanx rn=f “who causes his name to live”. This is a common dedication (or rather vivification) formula that makes its earliest appearance in texts from the First Intermediate Period, although it does not occur in significant numbers until the Middle Kingdom. Its usage increases even further during the New Kingdom, only to decrease dramatically after this period (Nelson-Hurst 2010, p. 13, referring to Grallert 2001, p. 98).
In the upper register the lower part of another figure, or possibly two figures, is visible, kneeling down and resting the right hand on a rectangular object that is difficult to identify.
The person depicted with the lotus flower probably had an important position; the attitude of smelling a lotus-flower, and being seated belong to the attributes of an august position, while other such attributes may have been lost (Demarée 1983, p. 285).
R.J. Demarée, The Ax iqr n Ra-Stelae. On Ancestor Worship in Ancient Egypt (Egyptologische Uitgaven, 3) (Leiden, Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten, 1983);
Silke Grallert, Bauen - Stiften – Weihen. Ägyptische Bau- und Restaurierungsinschriften von den Anfängen bis zur 30. Dynastie (Berlin, Achet Verlag, 2001);
Melinda G. Nelson-Hurst, “‘…Who Causes His Name to Live’. The Vivification Formula Through the Second Intermediate Period” in Zahi A. Hawass - Jennifer Houser Wegner (eds.), Millions of Jubilees: Studies in Honor of David P. Silverman (Supplément aux Annales du Service des antiquités de l'Egypte, 39) (American University in Cairo Press, 2010), p. 13-31;
Kurt Pflüger, “The Private Funerary Stelae of the Middle Kingdom and Their Importance for the Study of Ancient Egyptian History”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, volume 67, no. 2 (April - June, 1947), p.127-135;
Hermann Ranke, Die ägyptischen Personennamen (3 volumes, Glückstadt - Hamburg, 1935-1976);
Heinrich Schäfer, “Zum Wandel der Ausdruckform in der ägyptischen Kunst”, Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 66 (1930), p. 8-11;
Herbert Senk, “Zum Wandel der Ausdrucksform in der ägyptischen Kunst”, Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 72 (1936), p. 71-73.
New Kingdom, circa 1550-1070 B.C.
Height 22 cm, width 14 cm.
French private collection M., Paris, acquired before 1980. Thereafter with Arteas Ltd., London.
Fragment as shown, with some losses; possibly some filling, as suggested by the previous owner, although this is far from certain and almost impossible to tell, even with magnification and special light.