Limestone stela of the sculptor Userwer

From Egypt
12th Dynasty, around 1850 BC

An unfinished piece

The unfinished decoration of this stela is particularly interesting: the lower part is still covered with the grid used for ensuring that the proportions of the figures were correct. Some figures have been partially cut, but the last two remain as extremely fine drawing in black ink. The figures show increasing levels of completion from left to right. Userwer, as sculptor, may have worked on his own monument, but it is also possible that it was being cut by his apprentices. It seems likely that Userwer died before the stela could be finished.

The stela contains a supplication to those who see it to make offerings. The upper of the two scenes shows (left) Userwer and his wife Satdepetnetjer seated before offerings. Beside them is Satameni, another wife of Userwer. It is likely that Userwer married one after the other's death, rather than being married to both at the same time. Userwer's parents are shown to the right, and his children below. It is not certain where this stela came from, although, like many others, it might have been set up at Abydos near the cult centre of Osiris, the god of the dead.

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More information


G. Robins, The art of ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

J. Bourriau, Pharaohs and mortals: Egyptian (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1988)


Height: 52.000 cm
Width: 48.000 cm

Museum number

EA 579


Acquired in 1834, formerly of the Sams Collection


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