This statue of the lector priest Neb-hepet-Ra provides us with the expansive story of a priest and policeman whose radius of action comprised the royal palace in Thebes, the local temple of a deified king, the temple of Amun-Ra in Karnak and the neighbouring town of Medamud.

The statue stands out for its beauty, its crisp condition (apart from its missing feet) and the appealing reddish serpentine of which it is made. The figure represents a man with a shaven head, dressed in a long wraparound garment. He stands serenely, in a pose of prayer with his arms hanging down, his hands resting flat on the front of his robe. His aged and naturalistic features, his large ears and details relating to his clothing all point to the second half of the 19th century bc – the final decades of the 12th Dynasty. Much of the figure's importance resides in the unusually extensive inscriptions: three columns of hieroglyphs on the man's garment, and four more columns on the back pillar. The texts suggest that the statue once stood in a tomb chapel in western Thebes, at modern Luxor. It must have served as the focus of offering rituals to nourish the owner's spirit and equip him for the afterlife. That said, the sculpture was certainly made while its subject was still alive. Not content with just inscribing some offering prayers, he expanded the texts to reveal his extraordinary career.

This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.


Luxor, Egypt; accessioned into the Art Institute of Chicago's collection in 1910; deaccessioned from the Art Institute's collection and acquired by a private collection in 1958; John Philip Kassebaum; Brunk auctions, 2013 when acquired by presen

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