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HOME : Egyptian Antiquities : Archive : New Kingdom Painted Wooden Mask from a Sarcophagus
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New Kingdom Painted Wooden Mask from a Sarcophagus - X.0438
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 1307 BC to 945 BC
Dimensions: 19" (48.3cm) high x 16" (40.6cm) wide
Collection: Egyptian
Medium: Painted Wood

Additional Information: Sold

Location: United States
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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 Egyptian 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 were 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 features as well as clothing and jewelry. Polychrome paint infused the works with color and the finest examples were gilt.

Although what remains is just a fragment featuring the head, originally this work would have been attached to the front cover of a mummy case in which the preserved remains of the deceased would have been placed. Wood sculptures from Ancient Egypt are exceedingly rare, due both to the expense of high quality wood in antiquity as well as the ravages of the environment and time. Those works of wood that have survived were generally entombed, as this piece would have been. In fact, this work would have been the centerpiece of the tomb, the vessel through which the body would be transported into the afterlife and reborn. Remarkably, this work features much of the original pigment that decorates the surface intact. The face has been colored in a soft beige hue, while the surrounding wig has been painted blue. Painted green and red features radiate around the face like a halo. A black scarab rests prominently atop the beaded band atop the head. The lower ends of the wig have been decorated with a rosette pattern rendered with red and orange pigments. The eyes are clearly defined with prominent cosmetic lines. The facial features bear the idealized stylization typical of Egyptian art. - (X.0438)


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