ART FROM ANCIENT LANDS

Late Dynastic Period Wooden Mask - X.0136
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 712 BC to 525 BC
Dimensions: 9.5" (24.1cm) high
Collection: Egyptian
Style: 25th/26th Dynasty
Medium: Polychrome/ Wood

This face in an extraordinarily excellent state of preservation is from an anthropoid, painted wooden sarcophagus and is preserved from about the middle of the forehead to the beginning of the neck. The face is well-modeled. Its features include hieroglyphic eyes over which are plastic cosmetic stripes, a thin-bridged nose, and a wide, almost horizontally oriented mouth with a thin upper and slightly thicker lower lip. The top of the head is provided with a single tang for its insertion into the lid.

The characteristic feather patterns of the headdress visible over the forehead and again at the sides of the head which are separated from one another by non-figural zones simply painted black in color are typical of anthropomorphic sarcophagi first created during the Kushite, or Twenty-fifth Dynasty (about 720-650 BC). These feathers belong to the powerful sky goddess, Nut, who is represented as a vulture on ancient Egyptian funerary equipment as early as Dynasty XVIII of the New Kingdom. When on the ground, the vulture spreads out its wings in a configuration which reminded the Egyptians of an enormous embrace and which they subsequently interpreted as an embrace of protection, shielding the deceased from all potential dangers.

On the basis of the style and colors used to decorate this exquisite work of art, one can date this portrait to Dynasty XXV. There are excellent parallels for this portrait in both the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

References:

John H. Taylor, Egyptian Coffins (Warminster 1989), pages 53-56, for a description of such Dynasty XXV coffins and especially page 55, figure 43, for the coffin of the Lady Takhebkhenem, in London, The British Museum, which is a good parallel for the portrait under discussion; Carol Andrews, Egyptian Mummies (London 1984), page 50, no. 61, for an example with a green face dated slightly late to the Twenty-sixth to Thirtieth Dynasty; and Patrick F. Houlihan, The Animal World of the Pharaohs (London 1996), page 163, figure 117, for Nut as a vulture on the gilded, anthropoid sarcophagus of Yuia, the father of the legendary Queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep III and mother of Akhenaten.

- (X.0136)


 

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