Egypt, Late Period, 26th to 31st Dynasty, ca. 664 to 332 BCE. A huge, impressive example of a sarcophagus bust from a mummy's coffin. It consists of three carved cedar panels with separately attached cedar mask and wig lappets. The carved face has projecting eyes, nose, and mouth, giving it a haunting appearance, with the remains of red pigment coloring the face and black on the eyes and eyebrows. The wig lappets are also painted with black lines to create the illusion of thick, black hair. Contemporary wooden dowels are placed throughout the piece to hold its separate components together, giving us an idea of how it was created. Size: 17.6" W x 32.75" H (44.7 cm x 83.2 cm)
Painted on the central and side panels is a design motif of a winged heart scarab across the chest, a large red and black collar, and, below the collar, a recumbent jackal, depicting the god Anubis. Both of these symbols were designed to offer protection to the person inside the sarcophagus in the afterlife. The scarab symbol needed to be placed over where the heart resided in the body, because the ancient Egyptians believed that the heart was the seat of the mind. After death, according to their beliefs, an individual's heart would be weighed against a feather by Anubis before a panel of deities who waited at the gateway to the netherworld to judge the dead. If the heart was lighter than a feather, then the deceased could pass into the next life; if not, they would be devoured by a monster and cease to exist. The Egyptians believed strongly in the power of drawn symbols to act protectively against gods and magical powers; what today is a beautiful piece of art, was to them a sacred barrier against death.
Provenance: private New York, USA collection; ex private German collection, acquired at auction house Peretz in Saarbrucken, Germany in the 1980s
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