The erotic nature of the scene, with its naked male dancer, suggests that this piece was inteneded for the shrine of the goddess Hathor at Deir el-Bahri. In her aspect as a fertility goddess, Hathor was associated with Bes, a fertility god who was depicted as part human, part lion. The nude figure may be either a priest or a mummer who would have worn a mask and played the part of Bes at a festival honoring the goddess. The dancer and the partially preserved man in the register above both carry an object with multiple brown strands. These have been described as scourges, but they could as easily be some sort of percussion instrument used to accompany the music and to placate the goddess.
The material is probably goat hide. Two holes in the leather were patched before the surface was painted. The lower left corner has been reinforced with a patch of red-dyed leather that holds a leather tie. This suggests that the piece was attached to an item of furniture or tied to a pole.
Fragment of a Leather Hanging(?) with an Erotic Scene
Period: New Kingdom
Dynasty: Dynasty 18
Reign: reign of Ahmose I to Hatshepsut
Date: ca. 1550–1458 B.C.
Geography: From Egypt, Upper Egypt; Thebes, el-Asasif, Tomb MMA 815, found in debris during clearance, MMA excavations, 1929–30
Medium: Leather (deerskin), paint
Dimensions: leather: h. 16 cm (6 5/16 in); w. 18 cm (7 1/16 in) frame: h. 19.5 cm (7 11/16 in); w. 22.4 cm (8 13/16 in); th. .5 cm (3/16 in)
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1931
Accession Number: 31.3.98