Egypt, Romano-Egyptian Period, ca. 30 BCE to 2nd century CE. An incredibly haunting plaster mummy mask, depicting a young man with lifelike features and enormous eyes. The man's gaze is wide and staring, with thick black outlines around his eyes in the Egyptian manner. He has delicately-painted eyebrows and a realistic nose and mouth. His slightly curled beard and straight hair are detailed and naturalistic. The skin tone is painted with a variety of colors rather than as a flat, single tone, lending the figure depth and realism. Unpainted plaster extends backward from his head and would have encompassed the upper portion of a sarcophagus. This face was modeled on the true features of the deceased, giving you an opportunity to visualize someone who died two millennia ago. Size: 8.25" L x 8" W x 9.5" H (21 cm x 20.3 cm x 24.1 cm); 12.5" H (31.8 cm) on included custom stand.
Masks like this one reflect the profound change that the Greco-Roman world brought to Egypt. The naturalistic depiction of a person's face as a plaster mask replaced the stylized art of dynastic Egypt; hieroglyphs and other symbols painted on elaborate sarcophagi fell out of favor, and this mask would have been placed over a simple wooden coffin. These heads were reserved for the elite, who were buried in small chapels, usually mummified and with other members of their family and / or town.
See a similar example that sold for $12,500 at Christie's New York in 2012: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/an-egyptian-painted-plaster-mummy-mask-roman-5567173-details.aspx
Provenance: private St. Louis, Missouri, USA collection; ex Atlanta, Georgia, USA collection, formed between 1970 and 1990
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