30th Dynasty Painted Wooden Mummy Case of Tai-es Khen

SKU X.0466
Status

SOLD

Circa

380 BC to 343 BC

Dimensions

68″ (172.7cm) high

Medium

Wood

Origin

Egypt

Gallery Location

UK


 

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. As mummification techniques became more and more advanced over time, so did the coffins become more and more elaborate. During the Middle Kingdom, mummy masks were made from plastered linen and became increasingly larger until they covered the entire upper body. Eventually, wooden mummy cases covering the entire body became the standard. 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.

This gorgeous wooden mummy case is a masterpiece of Ancient Egyptian art. The elegant form and intricate painted decorations are hallmarks of the Egyptian style. More than a mere artifact, this magnificent work is a symbol for the glories of Ancient Egypt, from the grandeur of the Pyramids to their vast pantheon of deities. Physically, this work demonstrates the capabilities of the carver as well as the technical precision of the painter. Spiritually, this sculpture stands for the complex religious beliefs that formed the foundation of the civilization. The form of the case echoes the form of the mummified body that would have once rested inside. Aside from the finely carved face and the suggestion of feet, the body is highly abstract, bearing little evidence of limbs or musculature. Clearly, the most impressive aspect of this mummy case is the brilliant polychrome paint that decorates its surface. A virtual textbook on the funerary beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians, the iconography of the painting is filled with deities and symbols relating to the great beyond. The lid of the case has been roughly divided into two zones: an upper half depicting the face and an elegantly painted band of beaded necklaces, and a lower zone dedicated to hieroglyphic text. A representation of winged Isis crowned with a solar disk kneeling above a panel depicting gods of the underworld flanked by two black dogs serves as a partition between these two zones.

The bottom or back of the case has been adorned with the image of Isis painted light blue, again crowned by a solar disk, standing beneath a giant djed column that was an Ancient Egyptian symbol of stability. As related to funerary rites, the djed was considered an essential aid during the transformation of the human flesh into the spiritual form assumed by the deceased for all eternity. The djed pillar features a solar disk, and arms emerge from its sides, offering the goddess below a heart amulet. Individually framed representations of the four sons of Horus, who were closely identified with the viserae removed from the body during the mummification process, flank the scene of the djed column, covering the shoulders and the sides of the lower back. A stripped tripartite wig covers the head of the mummy case and serves as a visual link between the two sides. This mummy case comes from a set of three cases that were commissioned by a single family. This particular case would have once held the matriarch of the family. The heiroglyphic inscription identifies her as Tai-es Khen, the wife of Iret Heru-ru and daughter of Pa-di Amun (her father) and Tai-ef Ineput (her mother). Originally, she would have been accompanied by a case holding her husband and another smaller case holding their child.

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