This magnificently preserved Egyptian limestone false door is carved in shallow relief, and would have originally closed the entrance to a small chamber inside a mastaba superstructure, which housed a votive deity statue that was used as a vehicle for the soul to reach the afterlife. It is carved with an inner and outer tripartite and a miniature doorway represented in between the jambs, at the top of which is a rolled up matt hanging above the entrance. In between the inner and outer lintels of the stela is an instructive representation of the deceased knelt in front of an offering table. The outer doorframe with torus moulding is itself enclosed within a larger doorframe. All three frames contain hieroglyphic inscriptions covering their surfaces, along with figurative representations of the deceased, and the name ‘Djaty’. Evidence suggests that doors were sometimes reused, with new hieroglyphs inscribed after the old donor had died and enough time had passed for them to remain in the afterlife.
False doors like this were common throughout ancient Egypt, located inside mortuary temples and tombs. They served a passageway between the world of the living and the world of the dead, allowing ‘Ka’ (the soul of the deceased) to pass from one to the next. As a mystical object, they allow interaction between the sacred and the profane, and could facilitate conversation between this life and the afterlife along with the passing of offerings from one to another. Particularly found in ancient Egyptian tomb complexes for the socio-elite, these false doors were not intended to trick as the name suggests, but were considered genuine portals between religious dimensions. They were be located on the western walls of Old Kingdom temples; the direction of the afterlife, and would have been accompanied with relief carvings of processional or ritual scenes including meat butchering, bird catching and religious offerings. Existing in both wood and stone, false doors are an important historical artefact as they typically record the name, title and occupation of the deceased and details of their family and important officials, as well as listing suggested offerings between man and spirit.
A similar example of an Old Kingdom limestone false door can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, on which the dedicate ‘Metjetji’ mentions himself no fewer than 8 time, and like this example, it shows the deceased knelt before an offering table. Paint traces on the surface suggest that these false doors would have initially been decorated in bright colours. Despite this example being smaller than the Metropolitan Museum door, they share the same fine level of craftsmanship, with intricate detail, harmonious architectural proportions and lengths and angles so mathematically accurate it is a wonder considering their age. The similarity between these two doors, and other examples found in worldwide collections, is evidence for not only their popularity, but also the strict tradition of their appearance that must be adhered to in order for them to operate successfully.
It is not impossible that this false door was one of two from the same unknown tomb as mentioned below, or belonging to a relative with the same name and hereditary title. Cf. an almost identical stele of the Inspector of the Scribes of the Treasury, Djaty, in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva, no. 23479, which was previously in Munzen und Medaillen, Auktion 46, 28 April 1972, no. 19; exhibited and published in 1978, M. Maspero, Egyptian and Greek Art, Wildenstein Art Center, Houston, Texas, no. 103; and E. Porter and R.L.B. Moss, J. Málek (ed.), Topographical Bibliography, Oxford, 8.3, 803-012-702. The funerary stele, depicting the funerary banquet, was also a magical door through which the deceased could pass to participate in the funerary offerings "because the spirit can open that which is closed".
In the late 1980s, this beautiful false door was translated by the eminent French Egyptologist Jean Leclant (1920-2011) who was an Honorary Professor at the College of France, Permanent Secretary of the Academy of Inscriptions and Letters of the Institut de France, and Honorary Secretary of the International Association of Egyptologists. His excavations and research papers on ancient Egypt have been widely published and he won many prestigious awards. Prior to this the false door was in the private collection of Marianne Maspero (née Rusen) (b.1916), the eminent dealer of antiquities during the 1970s, 80s and 90s in Paris who placed Egyptian artefacts in many national museums including the Louvre. Marianne’s husband was the grandson of the famous Egyptologist Gaston Maspero, who invented the ‘Sea Peoples’ theory to describe Egypt’s eventual decline, all adding to this artefacts illustrious history.
 S. Snape; Ancient Egyptian Tombs: The Culture of Life and Death, John Wiley and Sons Press, 2011. P.76.
 Z. Hawass; Inside the Egyptian Museum with Zahi Hawass, American University in Cairo Press, 2010. P.79.
 False door from the tomb of Metjetji, Old Kingdom, Dynasty 5-6, Reign of Unis, 2353-2323 BC., Egypt, Memphite Region, Saqqara, Tomb of Metjetji, limestone with traces of paint, h: 109 cm., w: 66.5 cm., Inv.64.100.
 John Leclant, 1993. Photo courtesy International Balzan Prize Foundation.
Spanish Art Market, 2016, Accompanied by a Spanish Passport
Studied by the famous Egyptologist Professor John Leclant in the late 1980s
With Marianne Maspero, Paris, since at least 1978
Prior to that in a European Private Collection
Masterpiece London, 2017.
Wildenstein Art Center Houston, Maspero, A Collection of Egyptian and Greek Art, Houston, 1978. P. 103.