ART FROM ANCIENT LANDS

Egyptian Painted Wooden Mummy Mask - X.0374
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 1295 BC to 1187 BC
Dimensions: 22.5" (57.2cm) high
Collection: Egyptian
Style: 19th Dynasty
Medium: Painted Wood

The funerary rites and rituals of Egypt are among the most elaborate and celebrated burial traditions in the ancient world. The foremost concern was the preservation of the body, in order that it might be reborn in the afterlife. While the painstaking mummification process achieved this goal of counteracting the effects of physical decomposition, the Ancient Egyptians were not satisfied with a wrapped body alone. Gorgeously decorated mummy cases and sarcophagi developed over the course of thousands of years so that the body could be properly presented to the audience of gods awaiting the deceased’s arrival in the next world. These cases were created from a variety of materials, including stone, wood, and cartonnage, that were utilized depending upon the wealth and status of the deceased.

Preserved as a bust from about the level of the middle of the chest to the crown of the head, this remarkably well-preserved upper part of an anthropoid sarcophagus depicts the deceased as a stylized mummy. He is shown wearing a broad collar consisting of over a half a dozen strands of floral motifs and a plaited false beard, the tip of which is curved in order to identify him more closely with Osiris, god of the Hereafter. His face is framed by a striated, tripartite wig and is painted green, the color of the floral realm of Osiris, which in association with the floral broad collar symbolically assures his resurrection.

The features of the cordiform face are designed in a time-honored idealizing manner so that the deceased might be physically fit for eternity. Consequently, the eyes, hieroglyphic in their shape, are set into sockets framed by eyebrows rendered as cosmetic stripes. The bridge of the nose is thin and ends in well-proportioned wings. The upper lip is less fleshy than the lower, and these imbue the face with a contented, self-assured countenance.

Stylistically, our bust from an anthropoid sarcophagus corresponds to a well-documented category, all of the examples of which share in common a green-painted face as well as the same design and decoration of the wig and false beard. In these examples as well, the broad collar is placed on the chest in such a way that the area between the lappets of the wig, above the broad collar, and beneath the false beard appears to be devoid of any decoration whatsoever. This detail is purposeful because it was intended to represent the mummy itself over which the broad collar was simply placed. All of these examples are dated to Dynasty XXV, the so-called Kushite Dynasty, whose pharaohs were pre-occupied with the cult of Osiris. Such devotion resulted in the pronounced, but restrained Osirian symbolism exhibited by the green faces, floral broad collars, and plaited, curved false beards, all of which are characteristic of these objects in general.

References:

For the type, see the inner coffin of Horankh in Dallas, The Dallas Museum of Art (1994.184), discussed and illustrated by John H. Taylor, “Patterns of colouring on ancient Egyptian coffins from the New Kingdom to the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, an overview,” in W. V. Davis [editor], Colour and Painting in Ancient Egypt (London 2001), page 175 and color plate 55, 2.

- (X.0374)


 

BACK TO THUMBNAILS