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Gallery Text

This relief probably formed a door lintel of the mastaba, or tomb chapel, of the palace superintendent Ptahshepses in the great necropolis of Saqqara in Lower Egypt. Ptahshepses, who was also called Impy, is depicted on either side of an offering formula written in hieroglyphs. In both representations he holds a staff and a scepter. On the right, he is shown with a wig and a youthfully slim waistline; on the left, he appears with short-cropped hair, a longer kilt, and a more pronounced belly, indicating his advanced age. His wife and oldest son, Impy II, are behind him on the right, and his three daughters behind him on the left. The technique of sunk relief, in which the figures are carved into a level background (rather than the background being cut away, as in raised relief), was common on the exterior of Egyptian buildings, where its effect was enhanced by sunlight.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Tomb Relief of the Official Ptahshepses, Also Called Impy
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Sunk Relief, inscribed for Ptahshepses, called Impy, Superintendent of the palace and his family
Work Type
2323-2150 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Egypt (Ancient)
Old Kingdom, Dynasty 6
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3740, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Ancient Egypt: Art for Eternity
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Physical Descriptions

32.4 cm h x 94 cm w x 7 cm d (12 3/4 x 37 x 2 3/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Charles Dikran Kelekian, New York, NY, (1951-1982), by inheritance; to Nanette Rodney Kelekian, New York, NY, (1982-1993), gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1993.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Nanette Rodney Kelekian in memory of George and Ilse Hanfmann
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Egyptian official Ptahshepses, also called Impy, is depicted twice flanking an offering formula written in hieroglyphs on this limestone funerary relief: at left striding, with his three daughters, Kerfet, Ity and Khuit, “whom he loves,” as the inscription above them attests, standing behind him; at right he appears with his wife Hatkau and his eldest son Impy II. In both instances he wears a short kilt and holds a staff and scepter, though he is shown with two different headdresses.

Publication History

  • James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), p. 94-95, ill..
  • Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997
  • James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), p. 21
  • Jennifer Thum, Learning from the Lintel of Ptahshepses Impy at the Harvard Art Museums, In the House of Heqanakht: Text and Context in Ancient Egypt. Studies Presented in Honor of James P. Allen, ed. M. Victoria Almansa-Villatoro, Silvia Štubňová Nigrelli, and Mark Lehner, Brill Academic Publishers (Leiden) (Leiden, 2022), 152-170, figs. 11.1-11.5

Exhibition History

  • Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 3740 Egyptian, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at