Ancient Egypt, Late Period, ca. 664 to 332 BCE. A more than life-size male head from a sarcophagus, finely carved from cedar wood and presenting bold facial features in low to high relief, including almond-shaped eyes, a sharp browline, a naturalistic nose, gently smiling full lips, a rounded chin and nicely defined jawline, pronounced ears, and a recessed neck. The surface is adorned in painted gesso so as to create a russet-brown complexion, black details on the face, and a black royal tripartite wig. Size: 15.25" W x 13.5" H (38.7 cm x 34.3 cm); 16.125" H (41 cm) on included custom stand.
This mask and others like it were traditionally carved from cedar. Interestingly, cedar wood was not native to Egypt. Egypt did not have verdant forests filled with tall trees, and unfortunately most of its native lumber was of relatively poor quality. Thus, they relied on importing to acquire hardwoods - ebony imported from Africa, cedar and pine from Lebanon. One fabulous obelisk inscription by Thutmose III attests to the luxury of treasured hardwoods. It reads as follows, "They brought to me the choicest products . . . consisting of cedar, juniper and of meru wood . . . all the good sweet woods of God's Land." The rarity of cedar meant that masks like this one were reserved for those who could afford them.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-private Pennsylvania, USA collection, acquired 35 years ago
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