Three people are sitting on a couch, two men and one woman. Their posture conveys an impression of devotion and contemplation. The left hands are placed on their chests, their right hands are resting in their laps and clasping small towels. The woman Kafi aims her gaze straight ahead, whereas the man on the left, Sa-isis [Siêse], seems to look away. The man in the middle, Meriptah, is looking straight ahead, but with his head and eyes slightly turned upwards. This is a recurring feature in Egyptian statuary which perhaps expresses a specific state of being or a state of mind. The central position of Meriptah indicates his primary ranking within this group, but we know this also in an indirect way, because it is his name which is inscribed in the tomb. Their long garments, which cover their entire bodies, are no longer encountered on other statues of this period, but they were depicted into the reign of Amenhotep III (1403-1365), several generations earlier. The men are wearing shoulder-length wigs and short small beards according to the fashion of the New Kingdom. The woman is wearing the enormous but beautiful wig which separates into three sections and has wavy tresses.
His titles indicate that Meriptah held a highly honourable position at the court. He was responsible for the delivery of food to the royal court. Sa-isis was the head of a royal workshop of craftsmen and artisans. Kafi is known from other inscriptions as the mother of the two men. She was a songstress of Amun, an honorary function befitting her high status.
The statue comes from one of the private tombs in western Thebes, no. 387, which lies in the hills at the foot of the western mountain range. This type of tomb has a public part separate from the deeper lying burial chamber. This public part generally consists of an open court, a rock-cut transverse hall and a long room cut deeper into the hill's interior. At the end of the long room or corridor is the place for the tomb statues. Tomb no. 387 is badly damaged and not open to the public, but all three of the people in this the statue are still to be found in its painted inscriptions and decorations. The niche at the western end of the long room is sufficiently large to accomodate the present statue group. When it was opened 50 years ago the tomb was found empty, but nevertheless it is likely that the statue originates from here. It came to Vienna in 1854, a gift from the Austrian consul Franz Champion.
As is customary, bands of inscription are added to the front of the garments. In them, a god is invoked to bring the offerings depicted.
Another inscription was added to the top and back of the slab behind the three figures. Only two of the six columns visible on the back have actually been carved. The others have been merely sketched in black ink. Because the sculpture was placed with its back to the wall, no one would have noticed this negligence, and the prayers would have been magically effective even if only written in ink. The inscription starts with the line written across the top and continues with the lines on the back.
|KUNSTHISTORISCHES MUSEUM [09/001] VIENNA
|HEWN; CARVED; PAINTED
Everything which is offered to the Lords of Thebes, all things good and pure, may they revert to the Ka of the Osiris, the Royal Scribe of the Table of the Lord of the Two Lands (the Pharaoh), Meriptah, true of voice, (in front of the court of the dead), in peace, the lord of veneration.
Everything which is offered on the table of the lords of eternity, bread, beer, beef, and poultry, may they revert to the Ka of the Osiris, the head of the craftsmen of the Lord of the Two Lands, Sa-isis true of voice.
Everything which is offered on the altar of the Lords of the Netherworld, bread, beer, beef, and poultry, may they revert to the Ka of the Osiris, the Songstress of Amun, Kafi true of voice.
An offering which the king gives (to the state god) Amun, the Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands, and Atum ..., so that they may promise (all kinds of offerings) to the Ka of the Osiris, the Royal Scribe of the Table of the Lord of the Two Lands, Meriptah.
An offering which the king gives (to the god of the dead) Osiris-Khontamenti ..., the great god and Lord of Ra-setau, in order that he may allow the coming in and out of the necropolis ... to the Ka of the Songstress of Amun, Kafi true of voice.
An offering which the king gives (to the sun god) Harakhty, the great god, the Lord of the Two Lands, the (god) of Heliopolis ..., whom the gods adore when he arises, so that he may allow the solar disk to be seen ... every (day?) to the Ka of the head of the craftsmen of the Lord of the Two Lands, Sa-isis true of voice.