Ancient Egypt, New Kingdom / Third Intermediate Period, 1550 to 712 BCE. Wow! An incredible rendering of a face carved into a limestone panel, with beautifully-rendered features shown in profile. The face is dominated by its large eye, with incised lines indicating kohl that would have been painted around the upper lid and outward from the corner in a thick line. A thick eyebrow is carved just above the eye. The nose and mouth are delicate, as is the ear. A long neck extends downward from the chin. The figure probably at one time had a headdress, and there also appears to be a false goatee - a style worn by men and some women in ancient Egypt - extending downward from the chin. Next to the goatee is a deeply incised symbol that may be the hieroglyph for water. Size: 12" W x 9.25" H (30.5 cm x 23.5 cm); 11" H (27.9 cm) on included custom stand.
The carved (rather than simply painted) nature of this relief indicates that it was from a prestigious location - most likely a major temple, but also possibly a high ranking official's tomb or even a palace. Images like this one were part of larger stories, usually a journey through the afterlife or a tale of meeting deities, that were designed to help people understand religious concepts and, if found in a tomb, to introduce the dead to their new world. It seems that the Egyptians believed that making a representation of an individual - in a mummy mask or in tomb art - not only provided a physical record, but also served as a link to the immortality of the afterlife.
Provenance: private St.Louis, Missouri, USA collection; ex Atlanta, Georgia, USA collection, acquried before 1990
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