A Pair of Third Intermediate Period Painted Wooden Panels

SKU LO.608
Circa

1080 BC to 720 BC

Dimensions

27.4″ (69.6cm) high x 8.75″ (22.2cm) wide x 1.25″ (3.2cm) depth

Medium

Wood

Origin

Egypt

Gallery Location

UK


 

These two brightly painted panels each contain a train of three deities, two of which are well preserved in each panel. Each of these deities is identically attired in a tightly-fitting raiment decorated with a red-X. That X-shaped design imitates “suspenders,” which are habitually found on the lids of coffins of the period. This motif replicates the leather “mummy suspenders” which were routinely included as part of the burial equipment of the time. Additionally, these deities hold bolts of linen cloth, either naturally white or dyed red, in their hands, and these allude to the mummy bandages with which the mummy placed within this sarcophagus was wrapped. Their headdresses are all uniformly painted blue, perhaps in imitation of lapis lazuli.

The deities are depicted standing up a tri- colored, rectangular ornament which represents a serekh, originally depicting the crenellated façade of a palace, but which, with the passing of time, came to represent symbolically any sacred precinct, such as the tomb in which the deceased was interred.

Two of the deities are human-headed, and three serpent-headed. They belong to a college of funerary deities whose number is vast and whose spheres of influence are only imperfectly understood by modern scholars. The hieroglyphic labels confined to a single horizontal row across the top of each panel are identical, and perhaps associate the deities with the sun god Re, to judge by the fragmentary nature of the beginning of each of these labels. The labels then continue to identify the deities in the most generic way possible, combining them all together under the single rubric, “The gods who are in heaven.” Not one, therefore, is named.

The panels, dated to the Third Intermediate Period, provide an interesting window into the arcane nature of ancient Egyptian funerary practices at a time when the deities of Egypt appear to have been without number. Their complex mythological roles and functions mirror the complexities of mummification of the period, because the art of the embalmers during the Third Intermediate Period represents the apogee of their craft. Never before and never after were Egyptian mummies so carefully prepared with such exacting attention to detail.

References: For the suspenders, see, John H. Taylor, Egyptian Coffins (Aysnesbury, Bucks 1989), pages 43 and 46; these myriad deities are encountered on both papyri and sarcophagi of the period, see, A. Niwinski, 21st Dynasty Coffins from Thebes (Mainz am Rhein 1987) and idem, Studies on the Illustrated Theban Funerary Papyri of the 11th and 10th Centuries B.C. (Göttingen 1989).

– Dr. Robert Steven Bianchi

Dimensions of right panel: Height 27.37″, width 8.75″, depth 1.25″

Dimensions of left panel: Height 26.75″, width 8.75″, depth 1

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