Egyptian Bronze Sarcophagus For Snake Ex-Christie's
This is a very large bronze, hollow-cast animal coffin of rectangular form, displaying a three-dimensional representation of an entwined snake on top. The animal is coiled into an openwork figure-of-eight. This design is also found on other examples of this type of animal coffin, but usually such coffins are much smaller, with a length of about 7 cm (see for instance Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, inv. no. 637), with some larger exceptions reaching up to 11 cm (British Museum London, BM no. 36145), whereas this one measures no less than 15.4 cm.
Originally a mummified serpent would have been placed inside the coffin. For this purpose one of the short sides of the casket has been left open; after the mummified animal was put inside, the opening was often sealed. Several examples show the remains of a thin sheet of metal meant to close the open side of the coffin.
Bronze coffins of mummified animals were widespread in Egypt in the Late Kingdom and Ptolemaic Periods. They were frequently offered to the gods.
A couple of years ago the object was technically investigated, not because of authenticity doubts but to add the composition spectra to a database of authentic objects. These tests were completely non-destructive, using the Raman spectroscopic technique. It was established that the corrosion layer and corrosion compounds are typical of an artefact buried in an environment containing at least some salts. No irregularities or indications of forgery were found. The elemental composition is consistent with what is known from other objects from the same period. In addition the presence of azurite was shown. The tests confirmed the authenticity of the object.
Length 15.4 cm, width 5.4 cm, height 5.8 cm.
Dating: Late Kingdom to Ptolemaic Period, ca. 7th-1st century B.C.
Günther Roeder, Ägyptische Bronzefiguren (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Mitteilungen aus der ägyptischen Sammlung, 6) (Berlin, 1956), no. 518b;
For a similar coffin, made for a falcon, see: Sue D'Auria - Peter Lacovara - Catharine H. Roehrig (eds.), Mummies and Magic. The Funerary Arts of Ancient Egypt (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts; Northeastern University Press, 1988), p. 236, n. 195.
Provenance: Dutch private collection R.M.; with Christie's London, sale 8355 of 21 April 1999, lot 45.
This lot will be sold not subject to a reserve. The starting price is the price at which the item can sell.
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Intact; the panels are slightly bent on the side which is open, as shown in the photographs; corrosion on the surface has resulted in the formation of several corrosion products, creating a wonderfully coloured patina with areas of, among others, cuprite and azurite; the object has been treated for protection of the bronze.