Egyptian Cartonnage Mask of a Man Wearing an Elaborate Painted Headdress

SKU X.0212

664 BC to 525 BC


17.25″ (43.8cm) high x 11″ (27.9cm) wide





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This well-preserved mummy mask was created from cartonnge, a kind of ancient Egyptian papier mâché in which layers of linen or recycled papyrus were combined with gesso, a type of plaster, in order to be modeled into a mummy mask used to cover the head and neck of the deceased’s mummy. Ours is a particularly fine example which is virtually intact and extremely well-executed.

In keeping with ancient Egyptian religious conventions, the deceased is depicted with idealizing facial features in order to be appear to be symbolically in perfect, physical health for eternity. To that end, the eyes are designed as hieroglyphs with raised paint stripes articulating their lids, the upper lid overlapping the lower and trailing off toward the side. In like manner, the eye brows are plastically rendered as raised ridges and these come together and merge into the bridge of the nose which is thin and ends in a well-modeled nostrils. The small mouth is characterized by full lips over a protruding chin. The ears are prominent. The entire face and neck of the mask has been gilded to signify that the deceased is in the company of the deities of the land, because the ancient Egyptians maintained that the flesh of their gods was gold.

The deceased is shown wearing a tripartite wig, the lappets of which fall behind the ears to the level of the chest. These lappets, now painted a lapis lazuli blue with gilded ends, are decorated with identical scenes of the god Osiris, wearing the White Crown, seated atop a shrine the double-leaved doors of which are sealed closed with double bolts, one on top of the other. The shrines may represent the tomb of the deceased which is now eternally under the protection of Osiris, the god of the dead. The motifs above the head of Osiris may have originally been intended to contain inscriptions which were, however, not added to this example. A reticulated pattern to the left and right and a horizontal frieze of flowers complete the bottom half of the mask’s decoration. The top of the mask is decorated with a winged scarab pushing a sun disc which is crafted in raised relief in the center of the gilded hair band which holds the wig in place.

Such cartonnage masks are generally dated to the late first century BC into the first century AD, but recent finds seem to suggest that the type represented by our example may have appeared as early as the second century BC.

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