The Stele of Prince Ankh-nef-nebu was found at the site of Deir El-Bahari, the same compound that housed the 11th Dynasty Mortuary Complex and 18th Dynasty temple. The Stele of Prince Ankh-nef-nebu was found before 1925 and belongs to the Egyptian (New Kingdom) period. It is made of limestone and has traces of polychrome paint. The Stele’s dimensions are 12 x 8 x 3 in. It is currently located at the Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Depicted in the center of The Stele of Prince Ankh-nef-neb is the Prince standing at the right offering a table of gifts to three gods and goddesses. The deities can be identified from their appearances and symbols. Isis with the throne on his head, Horus with the head of a hawk and a crown of Egypt and Min with an erected penis and a flail. Their identities are reaffirmed by hieroglyphics that are carefully inscribed above them. Isis is regarded as the Queen of Goddesses, she was a great healer as well as a magician. Horus is known for ruling the whole of Egypt. His headdress comprises of both the crown of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Min was worshipped by the Egyptians as a fertility and sexuality god. Upon close observation, one would notice that some parts of the stele have been erased. This was done with the purpose of reusing the stele. The visible band of hieroglyphs at the bottom of the stele reads, “We give life, prosperity, and health?”
Stelae were most usually used for funerary or commemorative purposes; although some were also used as territorial markers The Stele of Prince Ankh-Nef-Nebu was used as a funerary stele as inferred from the location it was found and the band of stars framing the top part of the stele. The Egyptians believed that the stars were inhabited by the dead. Thus, stars were used as a common decoration for coffins or funerary inscriptions. The stele encompasses mainly smooth lines. It makes use of repetitive patterns on the top and bottom of the image.
Hieratic scale is observed in the stele. Size was used to portray importance in ancient art. The deities are significantly larger than the Prince. This symbolizes the greater importance and superiority of the deities. Besides that, the characters in the stele are also bare-footed. This serves as additional evidence of their royalty/almighty status.
Similar to most Egyptian art, the figures in the stele are drawn with a twisted perspective – the frontal view of their faces and the profile view of their bodies. This is also seen in the relief of “King Assurnasirpal II Killing Lions.” This twisted perspective was common in most Ancient Egyptian art.
The figures are portrayed in a stylized manner. They have simplified faces and very straight, rigid bodies. Straight lines are mainly used to depict the silhouette of the characters in the stele. The figures look very 2-dimensional, their movements are restrictive, and thus they appear very non-naturalistic. Although the stele has a very flat stone color now, there are traces of paint on some parts of it which is evidence of it being bright and colourful when it was first created. The paint might have faded over time.
The artist pays very little attention to details choosing instead to use hieroglyphs to ascertain meaning to what he was trying to portray. The hieroglyphs he uses range from the identities of the god and goddesses to the inscriptions on the top of Prince Ankh-Nef-Nebu to the message at the bottom.
Roasted chicken or duck was used as an offering on the table. This was exclusive to the wealthy in Ancient Egyptian times. Additional jars and bowls of food are place beneath the piece of meat. Similarities can be drawn to the painting of “Offerings for Nebamun”. Gifts are offered to the gods in return for protection and care in the afterlife.
In conclusion, the stele of Prince Ankh-Nef-Nebu composes of many elements used in art during the Ancient Egyptian period. These include the use of hieratic scale, twisted perspectives, stylized and simplified details, and the use of hieroglyphs.