ART FROM ANCIENT LANDS

Egyptian Painted Wooden Mummy Mask with a False Beard - X.0333
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 1295 BC to 1187 BC
Dimensions: 15.75" (40.0cm) high
Collection: Egyptian
Style: 19th Dynasty
Medium: Painted Wood

This remarkably well-preserved head from a painted, wooden anthropoid sarcophagus depicts the deceased with idealizing facial features. There include the hieroglyphically-designed eyes, with their life-like, sparklingly-alive black pupils framed by painted cosmetic stripes serving as eye brows. The brow of the forehead seamlessly coalesces into the root of the nose, which is itself characterized by well-modeled, drilled wings. The mouth is designed with wide, horizontally aligned lips, the upper slightly less fleshy than the lower; both of its corners are drilled. The overall expression of this face is at once serious and serene, indicative of the state of eternal bliss which the deceased aspired to enjoy in the Hereafter.

A separately crafted false beard has been attached beneath the chin by a mortise-and-tenon system. This beard, the hair of which has been plaited into a braid-like design, ends in slight, upward curve. Such a curving, plaited beard is generally an insignia of Osiris, god of the Hereafter, with whom the deceased is identified. Such a beard originally imbued Osiris with sexual potency and that efficacious power is here transferred to the deceased. The deceased’s resurrection in the Hereafter, couched in terms of human procreation, is, therefore, implied by the presence of this beard.

The deceased is depicted wearing a striated wig, only the horizontal stripes of which still appear, but perfectly preserved, above his forehead. This wig was covered with a series of horizontal bands, mostly floral in design, with three large lotus blossoms suspended upside down from the first fillet just above the horizontal striations of the wig. These floral forms are likewise symbolic, imbuing the deceased with regenerative powers of the floral kingdom, the species of which sprout after a period of dormancy.

This magnificently preserved and utterly striking example can be dated to the Ramesside Period of Dynasty XIX on the basis of parallels in London’s British Museum and in Brussels’ Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire.

References:

John H. Taylor, Egyptian Coffins (Bucks 1989), pages 35-39, especially page 36, figure 26 and page 37, figures 27-28, for the examples in London and Brussels, respectively.

- (X.0333)


 

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