Egyptian, Late Dynastic Period to Ptolemaic, 26th to 31st Dynasty, ca. 664 to 30 BCE. A gorgeous gilded cartonnage sarcophagus mask displaying quintessential Egyptian beauty, made from layers of plaster-covered papyrus or linen, gilded and painted with bright pigments. The face is defined by fine black-painted eyes and brows, high-set ovoid ears lined in red pigment, and full lips in an enigmatic gentle smile, all enveloped in thin layers of gold leaf. A multi-stranded pectoral known as a weswkh collar is comprised of bands of floral, inverted triangular, and zigzag motifs outlined in black and presenting red, yellow, and traces of blue pigments. The verso is concave enough to fit over the head of a linen-wrapped mummy. A fantastic example that exudes a sense of human life even though it belongs to this funerary tradition. Size: 9.625" W x 13.75" H (24.4 cm x 34.9 cm); 17.5" H (44.4 cm) on included custom stand.
Ancient Egyptians believed it was of the utmost importance to preserve a body of the deceased, because the soul needed a place to reside after the death. Preservation of the body was done via mummification - a process involving the removal of internal organs that were placed in canopic jars, wrapping body in linen, and then embalming. Death masks like this example were created so that the soul could recognize the body and return to it. For this reason, death masks were made in the relative likeness of the deceased.
Artisans were able to employ the use of different materials when crafting sarcophagi or any elements to be placed atop the deceased. Earlier masks were carved from wood, while later ones were made of cartonnage, a material made from papyrus or linen and soaked in plaster which was then applied to a wooden mold. Royal death masks, perhaps the most famous being that of Tutankhamen, were made from precious metals. All death masks were intended to resemble the deceased subject; however, eyes were always slightly enlarged and lips presented in a subtle smile, as we see in this example.
A stylistically similar example hammered for GBP 25,000 ($33,378.88) at Christie's, London Antiquities Auction (sale 12240, December 6, 2016, lot 16): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/ancient-art-antiquities/an-egyptian-gilt-cartonnage-mummy-mask-ptolemaic-6041259-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=6041259&sid=991b487f-1b3d-4320-8452-269680a15e4a
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Dr. Vladimir Piskacek collection, New York, USA, acquired in the 1970s
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