ART FROM ANCIENT LANDS

Limestone Fragment of a Face from a Sarcophagus Lid - X.0112
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 716 BC to 30 BC
Dimensions: 13" (33.0cm) high
Collection: Egyptian
Style: Late Dynastic/Ptolemaic Period
Medium: Limestone

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 the gods awaiting the deceased’s arrival in the next world. These cases was created from a variety of materials, including stone, wood, and cartonnage, that were utilized depending upon the wealth and status of the deceased. Some of the earliest examples were relatively unadorned, featuring the general shape of the body highlighted by idealized facial details. Later, they evolved into ornate memorials that sought to recreate the specific appearance of the memorialized individual, both in terms of physical feature as well as clothing and jewelry. Polychrome paint infused the works with color and the finest examples were gilt.

This gorgeous fragment comes from the front of an anthropomorphic coffin lid that would have once held the body of the deceased. Here, the artist has clearly succeeded in capturing the individualized facial feature of the deceased, infusing his natural appearance with a healthy dose of idealism. His boldly carved ears are perhaps the most prominent feature, framed by the wide wig that crowns his head. Although the nose has been damaged, his mouth and eyes are in excellent condition. The lips are full and he smiles softly. An indented philtrum, the groove that runs from the upper lip to the nose, is another individualized feature that helps capture the appearance of a living individual. His eyes continue to haunt us centuries later, drawing us in with their painted black cosmetic lines and eyebrows. Created during the period of time that marked the end of the Egyptian Kingdom and the beginning of the Ptolemaic Dynasty when Greek kings ruled the land, this gorgeous mask reveals that traditional Egyptian artforms continued to thrive despite the increasing influences of Hellenistic tastes. - (X.0112)


 

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