This tomb belongs to the vizier in the reigns of Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (later Akhenaten). It comprises a main hall with thirty-two rather squat papyrus columns (1), an inner hall (2) containing eight clustered columns of smaller dimension (all destroyed) and the shrine (3).
Ramose was one of the earliest converts to the sun-worship and his tomb is therefore of historical significance as one of the few standing monuments in Thebes of the period between the two faiths. It is moreover of artistic significance since it gives a unique opportunity to see conventional relief representations alongside the new realism which has become known as the Amarna period.
Before we describe the tomb of Ramose a word should be said about Akhenaten's sun-worship and the art it heralded. The movement was not the isolated act of a rebellious Pharaoh who established a new capital in Tel el Amarna with a set of original ideas and a new outlook. The sun-worship of Akhenaten was introduced in Thebes over a number of years. The formation of a new capital, rendering Amon no more than a local deity, was really only the final step in a continuing process.
Light is still being shed on the transition period from one worship to another. There is considerable evidence to support the theory that Amenhotep III and his son (Akhenaten) shared a co-regency for many years at Thebes, and that, while the father was too disabled by ill-health and his son too young for the responsibility, Queen Tiy laid the foundations for the new thought that her son (Akhenaten) was to bring to fruition. Among the first steps taken were the 'enlightenment' of certain Theban noblemen to the 'truth of monotheism', and a breakaway from the traditional forms of art. The tomb of Ramose dates from this period. It was started in the traditional style, continued in the new and left unfinished when Ramose followed his master to Tel el Amarna.
On both the left and right eastern walls of the main chamber, the murals are in unpainted, stylized relief. This was the conventional mural form typical of Amenhotep III's last years when his son (Akhenaten) may have been co-regent. On the southern half (a) Ramose the deceased vizier sits with his relatives. The men and women of his household are depicted in the traditional manner with regular faces, clothes and elaborate wigs, the details of which were carried out with faultless precision; the only paintwork is on the eyes. On the northern wall (b) are scenes of worship, offerings and religious ceremonies. The representation that most fully shows the stylized, unemotional, traditional treatment of the mural is that on the left-hand rear wall (c) by the central doorway. It is a portrayal of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), as he was then still called, seated below a canopy with Maat. Ramose himself is twice represented before the throne. This scene probably dates from the period of the building of the first temple to the sun at Thebes, a time when Amon was not yet openly challenged but the worship of Aton (or Aten) was nevertheless taking root.
However on the right-hand rear wall (d) we see a quite new mood. Now the young Pharaoh, who changed his name to Akhenaten only after he setup the new capital, stands with his royal consort Nefretiti (Nefertiti) on a.balcony, while Ramose, depicted in Amarna style and attitude, is being decorated with chams. Though it is still in relief, one can easily recognize the new realism, especially in the portrayal of the Pharaoh and his wife. Compared with the divine incarnation of Amon at (c), here at (d) we see the Pharaoh with belly extended in unflattering truth. Above is the life-giving sun with fourteen rays. Four of them hold symbols of life and happiness. Two support his outstretched arm. Another offers the symbol of life to the nostrils of the queen. Behind is the royal bodyguard. This mural probably dates from the period just before the departure from Thebes and already the thick loins of the Amarna period are apparent, though some of the innovations such
as the higher relief of the attendants in comparison with the rest of the sculpture, has not yet matured. It is a preview of art movement taking shape.
Let us ponder a moment about this so-called 'freedom of artistic expression' under Akhenaten. It does not imply individualism since the state artists worked in teams on approved themes inherited from the early dynasties. They were now freed from this traditionalism, which was encouraged by the priesthood, to do free poses encouraged by the Pharaoh. A swinging walk, relaxed comfort, tender relationships, predominate in the new art.
One theory is that the Amarna period was one of artistic degeneration. But degeneration does not take place overnight, and here in the tomb of Ramose the two art forms coexist. One may compare the stiff, unpainted, precise relief work of the earlier period with the first stages of the new realism. It is a unique opportunity to see the Pharaoh on one wall in perfect, divine immobility and, on the other, as the relaxed and physically imperfect man.
On the upper part of.the left-hand wall (e) is a peculiar juxtaposition of old and new in the group of mourners one of the most expressive and delightful drawings to be found in any tomb. Grief comes down the centuries in a heart-rending funerary convoy. The men carry boxes covered with cooling foliage, a jar of water and
flowers. A group of grieving women turn towards the funeral bier fling their arms about and throw dust in their hair, tears streaming down their cheeks. One woman is supported by a sympathetic attendant. One is so young as to be unclothed. Most of the figures are individual, expressing vaned movements and degrees of grief and are even of different sizes. But the group of five mourners at the center of the group of women are shown as a series of parallel lines behind the front figure. Traditions are not easily broken! Further along the wall women beat their breasts and thighs in grief or squat to gather dust to scatter on their heads.
Another theory about the representations of the Amarna period is that the young Pharaoh reverted to the archaic forms of art that he held so dear. He believed that Amon was but a usurper of the true sun-worship of Ra at Heliopolis and accordingly the proportions of pre-dynastic times were recaptured. The art he encouraged, in the words of Arthur Weigall, was 'a kind of renaissance - return to the classical period of archaic days."
In the doorway leading to the second, unfinished, chamber Ramose appears standing (on the left-hand side) and praying (on the right).