Egyptian Wooden Anthropomorphic Lid from a Sarcophagus with Painted Interior

SKU X.0213



900 BC to 600 BC


69″ (175.3cm) high





Gallery Location



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 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 impressive large wooden coffin cover harkens back to some of the earlier examples in its stylization of the human form, idealization of the face, and relative unadorned exterior state (the majority of the work features remnants of dark paint that once covered the coffin). The shape of the lid is highly abstracted, with no indications of limbs save for the flaring base that echoes the form of feet. The detailed carving of the head contrasts to the smooth state of the body. The figure wears a a tripartite wig, painted dark black, that are the hallmarks of royal regalia. The facial features are highly idealized with large eyes and a sweetly smiling mouth. By far, the most impressive feature of this coffin is not the cover, but the decoration we find inside. Adorning the back of the interior is a representation of the goddess Isis standing to the right, holding her arms outwards. Rendered in blue and red against a black background, the goddess wears a large circular headdress that announces her divine nature. Considering that this decoration would have been unseen when the coffin was closed, we can presume that this representation of Isis either played an integral part in the funerary rites, or was supposed to be seen by the deceased upon waking up in the afterlife.

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